A More Affordable Olfactionary
Amouage Interlude Man
Amouage Opus III
Amouage Opus VAmouage Opus VI
Amouage TributeAnnick Goutal Encens Flamboyant
Annick Goutal Heure ExquiseAnnick Goutal Petite Cherie
Annick Goutal Sables
April Aromatics Calling All Angels
April Aromatics Bohemian SpiceApril Aromatics Jasmina
At the Moment (Chanel 22 & Marshall Crenshaw)
At the Moment (Secret de Suzanne /D'Orsay L'Intrigante) At the Moment (Vera Wang & Fireman's Fair novel)
Ava Luxe Café Noir
Carner Barcelona D600
Caron Aimez-MoiChantilly Dusting Powder
Clive Christian C for WomenComme des Garcons Daphne
Comme des Garcons LUXE ChampacaCostes by Costes
Creed Virgin Island WaterDeneuve
Gucci Eau de Parfum Gucci L'Arte di Gucci Guerlain Angelique Noire Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia
Guerlain Samsara Parfum
How I Store Decants
Il Profumo Cannabis
Kenzo Jungle l’Elephant
Kenzo SummerLa Via del Profumo Hindu Kush
La Via del Profumo Milano Caffe
La Via del Profumo Oud Caravan Project
Montale Black AoudNeila Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling
Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps
Nez a Nez Ambre a SadeOmar Sharif Pour Femme
Oriscent Pure Oud OilsParfum d'Empire Azemour
Parfum d'Empire Cuir OttomanParfum d'Empire 3 Fleurs Parfumerie Generale Indochine
Parfums de Nicolai SacrebleuParfums Retro Grand Cuir
Paris, je t'aime
Pascal Morabito Or Black
Robert Piguet Fracas
Serge Lutens Borneo 1834
Serge Lutens Boxeuses
Serge Lutens Un Lys
Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette
Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods (brief mention)
SoOud Ouris Parfum NectarStone Harbor, NJ Vacaton pix (non-perfume related)
Strange Invisible Perfumes Lyric Rain
The Bechdel Test
The Diary of a Nose, Book Review
Tokyo Milk Ex Libris
Vero Profumo Mito Viktoria Minya Eau de Hongrie
Viktoria Minya Hedonist
Viktor & Rolfe Flowerbomb
Links to Other Blogs I Enjoy
All I Am - A Redhead
A Perfume Blog (Blacknall Allen)
Another Perfume Blog (Natalie)
Australian Perfume Junkies
Beauty on the Outside
Bois de Jasmin
Bonkers About Perfume
Ca Fleure Bon
Eyeliner on a Cat
From Top to Bottom - Perfume Patter
Giovanni Sammarco (artisanal perfumer) blog
Grain de Musc
I Smell Therefore I Am
Katie Puckrik Smells
Memory of Scent
Muse in Wooden Shoes
Natural Perfumery by Salaam
Notes on Shoes, Cake & Perfume
Notes From Josephine
Notes From the Ledge
Now Smell This
Oh, True Apothecary!
Purple Paper Planes
Redolent of Spices
Riktig Parfym: Ramblings of a Fragrant Fanatic
Scents of Place
Scents of Self
Sorcery of Scent
The Alembicated Genie
The Cow Jumped Over the Moon
The Fragrant Man
The French Exit
The Perfumed Maze
The Perfume Magpie
The Scented Hound
The Sounds of Scent
The Vintage Perfume Vault
This Blog Really Stinks
Undina's Looking Glass
WAFT by Carol
“Critic asks: ‘And what, sir, is the subject matter of that painting?’ - 'The subject matter, my dear
good fellow, is the light.'” - Claude Monet
Exploring the Light Fantastic with Hermes Jour d'Hermes
At the end of July I went with my family to Stone Harbor, New Jersey, and prior to leaving searched my drawer of perfume samples for something well-suited to the beach and new to me. Spying an unopened sample of Jour d’Hermes eau de parfum, a quick sniff convinced me that this was the perfect match: what I smelled in it was a quality of light, and one of the key attractions of Stone Harbor in late July is its sunlight, as all-absorbing as it is reflective at this time of year. Its high and splashy fullness creates diamonds on the surface of the ocean, renders the sand a whiter shade of champagne-pale, and imparts glisten to the rooftop decks of elegant beach homes and bounce to the flowers that spill from their window-boxes. Making me understand what Shirley MacLaine once referred to as “the golden hour” that envelopes Malibu Beach at sunset, the late-July, late-afternoon sunlight of Stone Harbor gilds beach walkers and other hangers-on, who aren’t yet ready to pack up their chairs, in such a way that I can’t imagine anyone not looking good in this light.
Thus Jour d’Hermes went along on my vacation, but while in theory it seemed perfectly suited to Stone Harbor, the beach with its volleying scents of ocean air and suntan lotions proved too distracting a place to wear this perfume. It wasn’t until I returned home and we lucked into some August weather that has been doing a fine imitation of September – which is to say, some unusual days in which the humidity has vanished and the sky has been endlessly blue – that I came around to studying Jour d’Hermes and realizing just how fine its atmosphere is. This perfume requires ethereal weather and a bucolic setting to fully appreciate its delicate nature. It’s as gossamer as a cobweb sparkling in the morning dew, making itself known to those attuned to such things (or those who by accident or a kinder fate walk into its filmy embrace), while also proving the equal to the cobweb’s tensile strength in terms of its longevity. Created by Hermes’ in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, who’s known for his sheer, minimalist compositions, Jour d’Hermes truly does make me think of sunlight. Wearing it is like studying Claude Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series of paintings. In the same way that Monet wasn’t painting a cathedral but, rather, the filter of how that cathedral appeared under various conditions of light (through which it loses all solidity and is a shimmering mirage of somersaulting particles in pearlescent shades of white, grey and its various hues), in Jour d’Hermes, Ellena created a floral perfume that is described as “a profusion of flowers” yet strikes me as a study of the very fine light of day through which we see these flowers. Interestingly, Monet created his airy portraits of a Gothic cathedral using surprisingly thick layers of paint, and Ellena has created an equally airy portrait of flowers by seemingly loading his fragrance with citrus. Grapefruit and lemon are more than detectable in Jour d’Hermes: on studying the perfume from an analytical point of view, it seems there’s a Florida orchard full of them in the scent – the grapefruit is especially evident – yet because they are married to a floral accord and white musks, wearing this extravagant amount of citrus is like wearing spaghetti-strap lingerie. Certainly, they can be easily parsed as individual notes of grapefruit and lemon, but one does not smell them and think, “Oh, a citrus perfume!” Wed to the flowers and refreshingly sweeter than one would think, they possess a Meyer-lemon sense of brightness and delight, and so much lift that they function much like aldehydes. Despite how fleeting most citrus notes are, in this composition they prove lasting, and as the floral component in Jour d’Hermes becomes more developed during its wear, the citrus lens through which these florals are smelled has the effect of flattening them. The flowers are the notes I can't parse; they are like a thin pane of glass I can only identify as being “floral” but not as being comprised of, for example, jasmine or tuberose or sweet pea or what-have-you. The overall effect is a perfume that feels fragile and atmospheric, like seeing flowers through a partially opened window and the morning mist.
All in all, Jour d’Hermes is a perfume I find fascinating to think about – so much so that I wrote this review for no other reason – and delightful to wear on a fine summer’s day. However, it’s not a perfume that would get much wear-time from me if I owned a bottle, which is surprising considering how much I like the things this perfume represents to me: light and more light and Monet’s impressionism. I’m very much a child of nature, and Jour d’Hermes only captures a certain slant of nature's light: it's too pristine and separate from elements which otherwise might lend it a real, humid and human feel (a life-force, if you will). It's an exquisite study of the things I love, yet without enough stain of reality to make for a deeper connection.
Hermes Jour d’Hermes eau de parfum can be purchased from the Hermes boutiques and website, where a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle is currently priced at $100. A smaller 30 ml/1 oz bottle can be purchased at Sephora.com for $72. My review is based on a carded sample I received from a blogging friend (thanks, Undina).
Please note that there is also a parfum/extrait version that I haven’t smelled (which I'm noting, as it might smell slightly different from the edp), as well as a flanker fragrance, Jour d’Hermes Gardenia, sold in a similar-looking bottle.
Image credits: (top of page) Rouen Cathedral by French impressionist painter Claude Monet, one of thirty paintings he made of the cathedral in the 1890s.
Image of Hermes Jour d'Hermes bottle is from the Hermes website.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 8/18/2015.
Taking a Break from Perfume to Contemplate the Bechdel Test
On one of our recent morning discussions before he left for work, my husband told me about the Bechdel Test – a theoretical test that feminists use to gauge how well women are represented in the movies, as the prevailing thought is that too many movies exercise gender bias, either portraying its female characters as the stereotypical weaker sex who are man-dependent (the implication being that the thoughts and motivations of these characters largely revolve around the romantic endeavors of winning a man and keeping him, or of getting over the heartbreak of losing him) or not portraying women at all, except maybe as some background character who is very minor in terms of the story. As such, the Bechdel Test has become the measure of whether a film merits watching, for those who champion women’s rights, and it’s a very simple test (which makes sense considering it originated from a comic strip), stating that for a movie to pass it must have these three things:
1) Two females (preferably named),
2) Who talk to each other,
3) About something other than a man.
Ah, that puts a whole lot of movies on the “fail” side, doesn’t it? The majority of them is the feeling of my husband and another gentleman, his close friend and colleague, who were discussing the Bechdel Test at work a day or two before he brought the subject home to me. In their opinion, movies generally portray women as being one-dimensional rather than as complex, capable individuals with rich and varied interests. Upon hearing my husband voice their shared concern that women deserve better representation, I suppose my own response should have been a solid “Bravo!”
Except that it wasn’t.
I came away feeling that, inherent with their belief that women in the movies are too often portrayed as needy romantics, any woman who avidly watches such films might just as well place herself in the same category. That would be the logical assumption, yes? And because I do love movies in which romance and relationships figure heavily, my sensitivity button was pushed, albeit not right away. My initial response upon hearing about the Bechdel Test was to paraphrase a quote from my favorite Anne Tyler novel, The Accidental Tourist. This quote requires some context: It comes from a minor character named Rose (sister to the main character), who has spent her entire adult life taking care of her brothers and now has a chance to break free from her spinsterhood, but who fears she is about to be thwarted by them. In actuality, Rose’s brothers aren’t trying to thwart her and only trying to prevent her from accidentally poisoning her new beau (warning him not to eat the Thanksgiving turkey she has painstakingly cooked at a salmonella-inducing temperature) but when she breaks down and accuses them of trying to drive him off, her speech strikes me as being every bit as true as it is humorous. “You three wasted your chances and now you want me to waste mine, but I won’t do it,” she tells them defiantly, declaring:
“I can see what’s what. Just listen to any song on the radio; look at any soap opera. Love is what it’s all about. On soap operas everything revolves around love. A new person comes to town and right away the question is, who’s he going to love? Who’s going to love him back? Who’ll lose her mind with jealousy? Who’s going to ruin her life? And you want to make me miss it?”
Looking back, I realize it wasn’t the best quote to use for this particular discourse due to its reference to soap operas. Yet that anachronistic reference is why the quote is so memorable to me: it’s both kitschy and real. Love is what makes the world go round, and it is through our relationships that we define ourselves: the kind of people we are, the boundaries we set in a relationship, the limits we transcend (in good or bad ways) to support or hold onto another person. We see our light, our places of deep darkness, our ability or inability to change, cooperate, to put our foot down or maybe to lift it for once. In the case of Rose in The Accidental Tourist, what’s fascinating is seeing the ways in which love to a truly good man expands her world but cannot break the slavish devotion and odd living arrangement she has with her brothers. Equally fascinating is seeing how her husband, a far more worldly man than she, is affected by their love – the accommodations he makes such that they can remain married while she tries to wean herself from this codependency. They are minor characters in this novel and the movie based on it; there is more to glean about what it means to be fully human—to love, lose, hurt, fail and fall in love again (to live again after the profoundest of losses)—through an examination of its main characters, whose romantic story plays out in such a way that it becomes an examination of how family and the social circles we belong to affect our choices.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? As Rhett Butler would say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Which brings me to my next point: Gone with the Wind. Would this epic portrayal of the antebellum South and the Civil War’s effect on it have had the impact it did if Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley Wilkes and Melanie were out of the picture? Would it have been a better novel and a better film if Scarlett never cinched up her corset, lusted after Ashley and married unsuspecting men she didn’t love – instead, doing from the outset what she did midway through the story, which was to go out and grub in the fields to try to save Tara? I realize that historical fiction might not apply to the Bechdel Test* because such stories pre-date women winning their rights, not to mention the women’s lib movement, but I do think there is a point to be made here. Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, Charlotte Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. These are just a handful of classic novels that have been made and remade into films, and not only is a love affair central to each one, but consider how many of these were authored by men. The level of passion, the obsessive nature of the romances in these works! They are proof that relationship drama is a subject every bit as compelling to men as it is to women. The greatest writers of our time weren’t writing such books to capitalize on the reading proclivities of women: these are serious and often rigorous works in which other themes – political, cultural, social, psychological – are explored alongside and in connection with the love stories at their core. And yet the love story is the central, beating pulse of these works and not a metaphor in service to a greater theme. Read any one of them and see how true it rings to the nature of romantic love in its various permutations, from naïve infatuation to deepest obsession and every stage in between.
What then of the films we can’t really call films? (In other words, the films that aren't classics or “serious” works. If we’re going to judge things, then we’d better call those entertaining little numbers by their popular name: “movies”.) Thanks to the Internet, I watch a lot of films and I watch a lot of movies, too, and I’m quite sure that many of the latter not only fail the Bechdel Test but offer up as much intellectual nutrition as a packet of jujubes. And yet, sometimes I can go a long way on a little sugar rush, and that’s the way I feel about movies like The Holiday, Bridget Jones’s Diary, He’s Just Not That Into You, Return to Me and Only You. With their formulas of love lost and found, these movies offer up comfortingly familiar portraits of human nature. They’re a reminder of the sorrows and joys we all share at some point in our lives, and seeing them on the screen allows me to laugh out loud at my foibles (which bear no small resemblance to Bridget Jones’s embarrassing moments); remember what the true rewards of life are (the first kiss, the hour-long phone call, the time I was running with my cross country team and a certain guy doubled back and held my hand to help me up the toughest hill on the course); as well as to realize that there is an ideal in love that’s worth reaching for, even if it doesn’t come with the sexy bells and whistles and happily-ever-after assuredness of movie love. I will admit that watching romantic movies sometimes makes me wistful, wishing I could go back in time and experience the moonstruck stage of “new love” again, and that kind of yearning isn’t useful. But it is a reminder to treat my longtime partner well – to flirt and keep some sweet playfulness between the two of us – as well as a reminder of some other important things too: mainly, that while I enjoy a great degree of solitude, life is better when it's shared, whether as part of a couple or with friends that cheer or commiserate with you on the sidelines, just as they do in the movies. Romantic movies almost always feature two things that are very true to life and worth remembering: the first is the friend who is always there as a sounding board and source of comfort; the second is the dream person who comes along when you’ve given up on ever finding him or her. Life is never over when you think it is, a pool of unexpected surprises ebbs and flows the entire length of our lives. I know this is true, and I only have to think about my maternal grandfather in the final years of his life when, twice widowed, he met a woman whom he fell head over heels in love with, enjoying her companionship for many years.
These are the reassurances of the frothy romantic movies that, whether they pass or fail the Bechdel Test, probably wouldn’t rate well on the feminist’s watch list. They are often formulaic, but like most clichés, they speak of enduring truths. That said, for those who don’t share my enthusiasm and are wondering, like my husband and his friend, why there aren’t more films portraying women in the full, complex, light they deserve, can I suggest that you put aside the Bechdel Test, poke around the movie streaming sites and take heart? There are many films featuring women of every age and type in roles of impressive ingenuity and strength; I believe it to be so just from doing a quick survey of the movies I’ve watched online over the past six months: The Imitation Game with Keira Knightley playing a code breaker during World War II; Annette Benning very competently handling both the management of a Hilton hotel and Al Pacino, its rock-star guest, in Danny Collins; Sandra Bullock as an astronaut single-handedly piloting a space capsule back to Earth in Gravity; Melissa McCarthy single-parenting her son in St. Vincent; Lake Bell as a vocal coach who wins a voice-over gig for a blockbuster movie in In A World: Carey Mulligan running a large sheep farm, in 1860s England, in the remake of Far from the Madding Crowd; Kate Winslet as a garden designer during Louis XIV’s rule of France who lands a contract to design a fountain garden and outdoor ballroom at Versailles in A Little Chaos; and Keira Knightley again, this time making a music album her own way in Begin Again. I could go on and on – this represents only a small sample of the movies I’ve recently watched in which women are portrayed as leading ladies who lead in the feminist sense of the word, with confidence, determination, creativity and, most importantly, with a sense of independence they rarely have to declare because they already own it.
*Apparently historical fiction is applied to the Bechdel Test (you can see the full list of movies at BechdelTest.com). After writing this piece I was astonished to learn that Gone with the Wind passes the Bechdel test based on one conversation in which Scarlett is asked by Melanie (whom Scarlett hates since Melanie is married to Scarlett’s dream man, Ashley Wilkes) if she will look after her baby if she dies during childbirth, and Scarlett agrees. This (as the dialogue that gives the movie it's passing mark) strikes me as more than a little ironic; go figure!
Anyway, of the handful of historical films I’ve mentioned here, Anna Karenina, Doctor Zhivago and Wuthering Heights fail the test, while Gone with the Wind, The Great Gatsby, Far from the Madding Crowd and Lady Chatterley’s Lover all pass.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 7/24/2015.
Ramon Monegal Cuirelle: Sueded Enchantment
I’d forgotten that my friend Ines (All I Am – A Redhead) had sent me a decant of Ramon Monegal Cuirelle, and though I had worn it once or twice when she initially sent it last year, enough time had passed that I’d forgotten what to expect from it (apparently), as reacquainting myself with it has been a surprise. Firstly because the name Cuirelle had me expecting a full-on leather scent – which it decidedly isn’t – and secondly because it’s the exact sort of perfume I’ve been craving over the last year: the soft kind. Cuirelle is a delicate, gourmand-like approximation of suede leather, and if I were allotted only one sentence to describe it, I’d draw a verbal picture of a beautiful young woman in suede go-go boots eating a slice of pineapple-upside-down cake somewhere sunny and spring-like. It’s an Enchanted April kind of scent: a scent that puts one in mind of Lady Caroline Dester luxuriating in the Italian countryside when the temperatures are warming up, and everything is in bloom, but it’s not sultry yet. The ocean is down a winding path, more or less a stone’s throw away, and Lady Caroline is in the polite company of her English traveling companions, so naturally some kind of polite, fruit dessert is involved. Why pineapple-upside-down cake? I include it as part of my description because five or ten minutes after application, attendant with the smell of suede leather, delicate florals and ocean mist, there is a whiff of pineapple (an imagined pineapple, as there is no fruit listed among Cuirelle's notes) in an accord that also smells brown-sugared and creamy. Equally fitting with the vibe I get from this perfume, there's a warm whimsicality to said dessert. It’s casual and unfussy and the kind of thing one might be served in the countryside, far away from the city and its patisserie shops. Cuirelle shares that appeal: elegant, loose-limbed and relaxed, it’s a fragrance that strikes me as feminine and pretty (perhaps its name is a combination of cuir, the French word for leather, and elle, the French word for “she”?), and not overly dramatic or serious. Any perfume that smells softly of leather, and softly of tropical fruit and dessert, is a perfume that must be said to have a sense of levity or humor about it. If the perfume was deeper, either in terms of its leather or its fruit, it would be a different matter, but this one isn’t balanced that way.
"Strength and texture. Not the essence of leather, but an interpretation of it. Cat-like flexibility and musk sublimated with shades of honey and incense and balanced with green Cedar and Vetyver grass,” is how the Ramon Monegal advertising blurb describes Cuirelle, and to a large degree, I concur.
While the word “strength” is not one that comes to mind for this scent in terms of its actual smell, it fits it conceptually. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I did compare Cuirelle to Lady Caroline, who does indeed possess a “cat-like flexibility” that is a statement of strength. And in terms of texture, it’s truly there, if you spend time examining this perfume in the close manner that perfumistas do when they are trying to parse notes. Doesn’t matter that I guessed the notes for Cuirelle all wrong (to me, it smells like suede achieved via an accord of iris, heliotrope and jasmine – notes that would also account for its fruity nature – and a veil of chypre notes that might include bergamot, saffron, oakmoss and patchouli). Doesn’t matter that I can’t detect the actual notes that Ramon Monegal lists for Cuirelle, those being olibanum, Indonesian patchouli leaf, bourbon vetiver, Virginian cedar, cinnamon and beeswax. What matters is that this incredibly suave perfume, when studied closely, has depth. Reiterating what I mentioned at the start, for me its textures are the combined whiffs of suede leather, sea air, vague florals that merge to become a tropical pineapple, married to a base accord that is too delicate to be called rum-like, but which nevertheless echoes the butter-rum scent of a pineapple-upside-down cake.
Wearing it yesterday, I got an unsolicited compliment on it from my hairdresser, which surprised me considering Cuirelle's languid nature. It does have some sillage, but for the most part it’s a perfume that acts a bit like Lady Caroline when she first embarks on her Italian holiday. It’s content to keep its own company and to grin at passers-by like a Cheshire cat.
Ramon Monegal Cuirelle eau de parfum can be purchased at LuckyScent.com, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $185. My review is based on a decant of Cuirelle I received from my blogging friend Ines (All I Am – A Redhead), whose luscious review can be found here. (Ines, if you’re reading this, I can’t believe how similarly we characterize this perfume. I just re-read your review for the first time since you originally posted it, and it hits on the same themes as mine. Thanks for introducing this to me!)
Image, top of page, of actress Polly Walker (playing Lady Caroline Dester) and Joan Plowright (as Mrs. Fisher) is from the 1992 film, Mike Newell-directed film, Enchanted April, based on the novel of the same name. Middle image is also of Polly Walker playing Lady Caroline. Bottle image is from Luckyscent.com.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 7/2/2015.