Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Photographs are my own. The first is from the beach at Stone Harbor, the second is a detail of one of the beach mansions on the street where we were staying; the third is of me, of course; the last is of my husband (holding my step-niece), as well as me and some of my family.

“Such hugeness, such richness! But the show of money has never made Iris envious or sad. On the contrary, it is a good sign for her, for if the world is rich enough to allow such houses as these, then maybe somewhere in it is a small one for her. The world’s wealth gives her a hope, even if now she has nothing of it, not a scrap, not an invisible crumb.”

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Knowing that I will never be more than a once-a-year visitor here has never bothered me, for if there is one thing that my beach vacation drives home to me, it is the richness of my life. By Saturday, I will be returning to my small house in Pennsylvania and the mundane chores I’ve left behind, but tomorrow morning I’ll again have the pleasure of waking up in a room built seemingly with the intent of letting in all of the Jersey-shore sunlight, watching a smile curl on my husband’s lips as he enjoys his favorite indulgence here: sleeping in. And the fruit I’ve resolved to eat for breakfast and lunch, to make up for the abundance of buttery seafood I ate this evening, will be a vine-ripened cantaloupe. And no matter what piece of real estate I'm standing on, there are always surprises. Two days ago, it was watching a man standing on a surfboard at a point in the ocean far beyond the crash of waves (after the lifeguards had retired for the day), standing perfectly still while a pod of dolphins swam in their arcing, diving way around him for a breathtaking twenty minutes. Today it was a storefront flowerpot that held a coleus with leaves as big as banana leaves—leaves so big, I had to take a picture. And last night it was my five-year-old step-niece confiding to me, as I helped her wash her hands in the bathroom, that Uncle Mark (my husband) “is sooo crazy, I love him sooo much!” The latter of which might not sounds like something that falls under the category of surprises, but as she is from California and is basically getting to know him for the first time, it made an impression on me.

Vents Ardents by EnVoyage:

The Kind of Wind That Fills My Sails

This morning I got up and had coffee with my family on the wide porch of the beach house where we’re vacationing. A couple hours later, I hopped on a bicycle-built-for-two with my husband and pedaled to the end of the island and back—a ride that is essentially a tour of beach mansions, though here and there one can still find the remaining bungalow or the traditional, family-size house like the one we’re staying in. Whether small or large, the properties are scrupulously maintained; there is not only affluence on display here, but a good old-fashioned sense of propriety and pride. This is a polite beach town, the kind of place where parents aren’t afraid to let their youngest kids ride their tricycles in and out of the streets, or their older kids to skip off to town by themselves at night. A little farther down the coast in Wildwood, there is a party atmosphere and diversions for the singles crowd, but Stone Harbor is not about such entertainments—it’s about genteel splendor. There is not much one could criticize about Stone Harbor except, I suppose, to accuse it of being snooty, and though there will always be people who look upon places like this, with their mainly upscale properties, with a certain twinge of jealousy or resentment, I can truthfully say that I don’t have that kind of mindset. I’ve never resented people who are wealthy—in fact, quite the opposite—and maybe that’s why this morning, riding around with my husband, the sound of the ocean in the distance, the blue sky overhead, and one gorgeous home after another clicking by, a quote from a novel I read a long time ago surfaced. The novel itself I always struggle to remember (Dreams of Sleep, by Josephine Humphreys), but one of its characters is a young girl from the down side of town, whose name I always fancied and whose attitude has stayed with me. There’s a passage where Iris Moon is admiring the houses along the harborfront of Charleston, South Carolina, of which she observes:

In the same way that my real-life world isn't perfect not everything is perfect here: the double bed seems cramped and a little lumpy, and by day three it is gritty with sand. With thirteen people in tow, there are arguments about what we’re going to do and when we’re going to eat and whose turn it is to do the dishes. And even when I’m lying on the beach, halfway through a terrific book, my thoughts will turn to other things—the failures in my life in any number of areas; certain people I have loved and can’t stop loving though they are gone. There is sometimes too much time to think when a vacation is focused on relaxation rather than exploration, yet overall? Here is a place where the beauties are as evident and clear-streaming as sunlight—where I am aware that I have more pluses in my life than losses—and where I have the opportunity to fully appreciate the people I do cherish who are left to me, and to bask in the things I love most: sunlight, incredible scenery, exquisite food and good reads.

Apropos to my surroundings is the perfume I’m wearing: Vents Ardents (which is French for “ardent winds”) from the niche perfume line of EnVoyage, out of California. Vents Ardents is a perfume which smells of tropical fruits and cream and a complex accord of arid woods that resemble a smoky form of sandalwood. If my understanding is correct, Vents Ardents was created by perfumer Shelley Waddington with the intention of it being a masculine scent, but to my nose its fruited creaminess reads very feminine. So much so that when I first smelled Vents Ardents, I was sniffing it blind and thought it was a white-floral perfume. The actual notes in this composition include the following:

Top Notes: Curacao, Wild Oranges, Bay Rum, a touch of Tropical Fruits
Heart Notes: Venezuelan Tonka Beans, Heliotrope, Magnolia, French Narcissus
Base Notes: Amber, Mahogany, Tobacco, Oak, Driftwood, Musky Vanilla, Balsams

Vents Ardents is particularly appealing to me this year, when I seem to have a craving for everything that smells like peaches—and though I can’t say that there is a true peach scent in this perfume, the combination of intense orange notes, spicy bay rum, and the undisclosed tropical fruit notes conspire to produce the aroma of deeply fermented peaches. Riding as they do on a base that smells of creamy vanilla and smoky sandalwood (not by way of real sandalwood but via other arid wood notes, tobacco and tonka beans), when I picture this perfume in my mind, I see a warm, boozy peach sauce sitting on a cool slick of French Vanilla ice cream in a wooden bowl. The edge of tobacco in the scent, along with some balsams that smell gently incense-like, lend a sultry, arid touch—making the perfume smell very much like a serious, grown-up affair and putting sexy thoughts in my head, such that I am tempted to suggest that if this perfume were an actual confection, it would probably be sitting at the center of a very small table, shared by a couple making bedroom eyes at each other.

Like the constancy of the wind in any place that is hugged by the sea, Vents Ardents has a constancy, too: it is a fairly linear perfume (meaning it doesn’t change much over its wear time on the skin) and, even in terms of its sillage, it’s amazing how long this rich scent wears on the skin and continues to waft its gorgeous scent. Vents Ardents goes on for countless hours, and even from one day to the next, while never smelling synthetic or loud—just very, very rich. In terms of its style, it’s laid back—not fussy or complex or “perfumey” in the way of a grand classical perfume—while still managing to be decadent. And in accomplishing both these things, it manages to be the perfect perfume complement to the place I’m at now, physically and metaphorically.


EnVoyage Vents Ardents eau de parfums is available from the EnVoyage website, where a 1-oz bottle is current priced at $70, and a half-oz bottle is $40. My review is based on a decant of the perfume sent to me from my dear blogging friend Asali of The Sounds of Scent.


Excerpted from Dreams of Sleep, copyright © 1985 by Josephine Humphreys (Penguin Putman Inc., New York, 1985, page 218)

July 31. 2013: