Monthly Archives: June 2014

Why do I write a perfume blog?

It’s coming up to Epiphany’s first birthday and I’ve been looking back at some of my earliest posts. This one has reminded me of the goals I set for myself back then, when my daughter was still a tiny baby and my soul was just bursting with love and passion for everything. Although my plan has developed and changed slightly over the course of a year, I’m still writing and still immensely proud of what I’ve achieved so far. Reading this post again as given me a little boost so I thought I’d share it once more….

Epiphany

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For the first time in Epiphany’s little life so far, I’ve decided to keep the fragrance on the shelf and talk about the reasons why I write a blog and in particular, a perfume blog. I read a very thought provoking piece by Nafia at ‘Confessions of a Creative’ about whether bloggers are selling out for free bottles of perfume and it really got me thinking. Why do I write? Why do I write about perfume? What do I expect to get from it?

I have always tried to be as honest and thought provoking as I can be within these pages, I strive to stir memories, inspire beauty and cause emotional reactions with the words I choose. These are the things that move me and therefor it is all I have to give. This is not a blog where I pretend to be someone else. This is really me. In…

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A Golden Reverie- Penhaligons Orange Blossom

 

 

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As I may have mentioned before, I love Penhaligons. It is that expertly curated ‘Englishness’ that draws me in, puts a blanket over my knees and hands me a big mug of tea (and god knows I feel like I need that at the moment.) The impressive collection of fragrances all project a classical style, encouraged by the boutiques dark wood interiors, elegantly understated packaging and bottles stamped with the royal crest.

The more recent releases from Penhaligons have seen the perfume house reach in a more contemporary direction. Iris Prima was a particular favourite of mine; a whispered ode to the beauty of the ballet, rendered in iris and dusted leather. Tralala, currently in the spotlight, is a collaboration with Meadham Kirchhoff which I have yet to sniff, so shall remain impartial, although looking at the note listing I can hazard a guess that I won’t like it. (I’m ready to stand corrected though, of course.)

When a perfume takes a single flower as it’s name, one might assume that the scent will be soliflore in character. For this reason I’d passed Orange Blossom by on several occasions. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the note, in fact it features in one of my all time favourite perfumes; Vero Kern’s intoxicating Rubj Extrait. Here it is heady and indolic and shimmery, supported by lustful tuberose, jasmine and musks. For some reason I’d decided that Penhaligons Orange Blossom would be too safe, too classic, not very ‘me’. What I have subsequently discovered is that safe and classic are very much ‘me’ and I’m becoming less ashamed to admit it.

I love a weird scent; something that will get my imagination all fired up for the purposes of writing. But actually wearing those perfumes sometimes leaves me feeling jangled and over exposed somehow. Uncomfortable in my own fragrant skin, particularly so when I am feeling stressed. Penhaligons Orange Blossom has been my saviour over the last few weeks, one of only two perfumes that I’ve felt happy to wear. A wonderful and ever supportive friend sent it to me a few months ago and it has been growing on me ever since. An orange blossom soliflore it is certainly not, re-worked from the original of 1976 by Bertrand Duchaufour and launched as part of the 2010 Anthology collection. The resulting perfume is a complex yet extremely gentle glow of citrus, florals and musks that has genuinely won my heart.

Penhaligons website provides an extensive note listing for Orange Blossom. They include; Neroli, Violet Leaf, Bergamot, Lemon-Cedrat, Cardamom Absolute and Pink Berries as top notes; Orange Absolute, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute, Tuberose Absolute, Rose Essence, Peach Flower, and Orchid at the heart and Sandalwood, Virginian Cedar, White Musk, Vanilla in the base.

At first spritz the fragrance is sparkling and bursting with sharp greenery. Bitter sweet orange chased by green tart bergamot, bolstered by a warm spiciness from Cardamom and pepper. The effect is crystalline and full of refracted light, the scent pinging around the nose in joyous tangy abandon. At this point one might be forgiven for thinking that Orange Blossom will be a rather citrus-heavy rendition of the petite white flower, but the magic has only just started.

Soon after the initial sharpness of the opening there develops a creaminess in only the way that white, indolic blooms can be creamy. Jasmine and tuberose billow forth to fill the gaps left by exploding citrus molecules, sweetly fragrant with fuzzy pollen. Although the tuberose is most definitely present at this stage of development, it is masterfully controlled and doesn’t create the slight skank that can be associated with it. Here it is merely a white, fleshy presence that warms the scent like sun on skin. There is also a delicious peachy glow, very like Osmanthus in it’s lactonic comfort, which must come from the peach flower. This milky sweetness combined with peach and orange and jasmine is at once uplifting and embracing. The effect is like the harmonised hum of a choir, nothing shrill or discordant, just a perfect smoothness that rolls off the skin with intricately tuned balance.

There is a slightly powdered quality to Orange Blossom that feels a little bit vintage. I have previously struggled quite a lot with cosmetic notes in fragrance, it’s an association that I cannot help but make with the lipsticks and powder compacts that my grandmother used to use. I hate the term ‘old lady scent’ but unfortunately that’s what I felt. I have worked really hard to appreciate the notes that sometimes create this effect; iris, violet, roses and musks, to try and disassociate that feeling of ‘dated fragrance’ from the perfumes themselves. Some I still can’t quite handle, (Malle Lipstick Rose I’m looking at you) but others have really won me over, Vero’s Rozy and Kiki and Huitieme Art Poudre de Riz to name a few.

There is a touch of 50’s beach babe to Orange Blossom that is actually very appealing. It’s not tropical in the least but somehow has the full bodied curves of a tanned lovely in bathing suit and blonde curls. Pretty, wholesome but a little on the naughty side. As the scent reaches the final drydown the waxen quality of those indoles becomes a little more prevalent, along with gentle sandalwood and smooth vanilla that is reminiscent of wooden surfboards, buffed with wax, lying out to dry in the beach filtered sun.

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On a warm bright day there seems to be no more fitting perfume that Orange Blossom. On a flat grey day there is nothing more able to conjure sunbeams than this most cheerful of fragrances. It would be a misconception to pile it among the flotsam of ‘beachy’ perfumes available on the market. It is too elegant and complex to be classed as a simple citrus either. Penhaligons and Bertrand Duchaufour have created something that is mood lifting, glowing and gently beautiful. It should have another name, something like ‘Reverie’. A daydream. Sweet, golden and never ending.

 

 

When perfume doesn’t solve everything.

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For someone who is supposed to be writing a blog about fragrance, I have found myself doing something a little different recently. I am in awe of those who are constantly seeking out new perfumes to review because of late I have not felt inclined to go on ‘scented journeys’ in quite the same way.

I’m not entirely sure what has caused this shift. my fundamental love of perfume still remains. I still get emotionally transported by wonderful scents and I’m still constantly chattering away about perfume to anyone who will listen. But when the time comes for me to actually sit down and write about it, I encounter a rather large question mark.

Maybe this is what they call writer’s block; my style has always aired on the side of fiction, even with a very real product as the focus. Up until this point I’d always found that a huge bonus, I didn’t have to try and conjure a story from thin air; it was already filled with the scent of the characters. At the moment it’s like those performers won’t quite step into the imagined spotlight, instead remaining grounded in the shadow of reality. A bunch of molecules encased in a glass bottle with some excellent (or not so excellent) branding. It’s all feeling a little too controlled and contrived to bend to the will of my imagination.

I am at a point in my life where I am very much living in real time. My daughter is growing up so quickly, she’s definitely not a baby anymore and I can’t quite believe how fleeting the last 18 months now seem. As a family we are gradually shifting our lives to bring in more of what we hope will lead to lasting happiness and job satisfaction. It’s exciting and tough going so buying perfume samples has had to go right to the bottom of the shopping list. If it wasn’t for those people in perfume land who occasionally send me things I’d be pretty ignorant of what smells new and interesting right now.

I never intended for this to be a place where I just reviewed fragrances in a straight forward way, there is already a wonderful selection of blogs to go to for that. Truth be told, at the moment a lot of fragrances just aren’t doing it for me, with the exception of one or two that I hope to write about when I can find words for them. I think that when life gets stressful and change is shaking the foundations, it’s the everyday scents that I find the most soothing and comforting.

I’ve been craving vanilla to extreme levels. Not the complex, smokey, boozy vanillas available on the niche market, and not the creamy candy fluff from the designers and celebrities. I want real vanilla; ice cream, patisserie, a jar full of pods to bury my nose in. I want simple food; granary bread, salted butter, tomato soup. Cucumber in chunks with slices of strong cheddar. Asparagus with a little salt, lemon and olive oil. Food that smells wholesome and uncomplicated. I’ve cooked the same fish pie about five times in the last two weeks because the combination of smoked fish and fluffy mash is the ultimate comfort.

I would cover every surface in my home with flowers if I could. Summer is coming and the parks and roadsides are vibrant with colour and scent. I have been seriously tempted to pull onto the hard shoulder of the motorway and gather huge armfuls of the big white daisies that grow in abundance there. The simplicity of their smiley faces brings me untold joy. I would fill every vessel with fluttery sweetpeas and voluptuous lilacs, great sheaves of pink and purple scented stocks, cornflowers for their dazzling blue starbursts and peonies with their tumble of petticoat petals. I’d line up pots of lavender along the sunny garden wall for the bees to feast upon.

I’ve also been changing the bed sheets with unnecessary regularity, just so I can sink into that fresh scent every evening. Linen sprays don’t cut it. The smell has to be crisp and line dried. There is a flowering palm tree in our garden that smells incredible at the moment, it’s white flower scent lingers in the cloth and reminds me of sunshine.

There are only two perfumes that I’ve felt even half comfortable wearing over recent weeks. The first is Penhaligons Orange Blossom. It is smooth, full of golden light and it makes me feel pretty, with just enough projection to be complimentary. The other is Papillon Angelique, a quiet, almost savoury blend of iris with a comforting fennel note that I just adore. Everything else has seemed wrong. Either it’s too strong or too complex or too strange for my pared down mood. Most days I have been content to smell of the products I use on my skin; a cheap and cheerful gardenia shower cream and raw coconut oil. My husband wears The Voice of Reason from Gorilla and I find that scent deeply comforting. Sandalwood, coffee and tobacco blended into a smooth, smoky perfume that will eternally remind me of him.

I feel a little guilty admitting that I’m not loving perfume right now, after all, that’s supposed to be ‘what I do’. But life is full of scent and during times when I need my wits about me, perfume almost seems to mask the reality of my situation. I feel more at ease just appreciating the scent that I encounter all around me. I find it grounding, it makes me stop and wonder at this most powerful of senses. It brings me back to myself somehow. I have no doubt that in another few weeks I’ll be spritzing away with the best of them again. Something incredible will waft in my direction and my imagination will spark into excited flames. For today though, I’m going to go and climb the highest tor on Dartmoor with my little family, breathe in the fresh air and try to see what’s coming next. I can smell excitement on the breeze.

What’s your ultimate comfort when life gets crazy? Do you disappear in a cloud of your favourite perfume or do you feel the need to pare it back like me? I’d love to hear from you…