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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Remember how for Christmas I suggested that you think twice before sedating someone with your lilies and patchoulis… Well, tonight I tell you the opposite.

Tonight is the night for the tux, the feelings, the love, the impossible heels and that perfume you love but feel often is “too much”. It is perfect tonight. Go for the oriental, animalistic, hedonistic, go full spectra.

All alone and no party to go to? No, not true… The party is where you are. The stars in the sky are for you. The champagne sparkles wherever you drink it. And in the company of one’s dreams one is never alone.

All party and nowhere to hide? Enjoy. Dazzle. Share your sparkle with others and see the sparkle in them.

Happy New Year! Let’s make it a really really good one.

I can’t get this out of my head so I have to share it with you because someone just made me think of this again. The last week I have been doing research on Jacques Polge and reading quotes. Polge often speaks about the invisible poetic language of perfume, the poetry, the language… you can see examples in my post from yesterday on Chanel.

His words give me this echo in my head…  I keep hearing two male voices at the same time, intertwined. It sounds like madness, but it is not, it’s beautiful.

This autumn we were so proud in Sweden to see Tomas Tranströmer receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. One of his most famous creations is called “Från mars -79”. I am unsure of whether the translation can give you all the feelings and whispered meanings of the original in Swedish but it is good enough. You will understand. I have read this poem a hundred times this autumn. It makes me feel like I have a cathedral inside.

Just in case I will give you two translations, I found them through an excellent article (unfortunately in Swedish but check out this one in English on the same topic if this interest you) on the difficult task of translating Tranströmer.

Robin Fulton’s translation:

Weary of all who come with words, words but no language
I make my way to the snow-covered island.
The untamed has no words.
The unwritten pages spread out on every side!
I come upon the tracks of deer in the snow.
Language but no words.


Robert Robinson’s:

Sick of those who come with words, words but no language,
I make my way to the snow-covered island.
Wilderness has no words. The unwritten pages
stretch out in all directions.
I come across this line of deer-slots in the snow: a language,
language without words.

The Swedish original version.

Trött på alla som kommer med ord, ord, ord men inget språk
for jag till den snötäckta ön.
Det vilda har inga ord.
De oskrivna sidorna breder ut sig åt alla håll!
Jag stöter på spåren av rådjursklövar i snön. 

Språk men inga ord.

Being a copywriter, I am painfully and imperatively aware of the fragility, precision, essence, mysteries….of words. I live them, breathe them, analyze them apart like an engineer or chemist. I search for them, claim them, fight with them. And I am constantly aware of this: words are only one of many languages that we perceive with and communicate with. I am fascinated by people who master other languages in a way that actually makes the superimposition of words unnecessary.

In Stockholm there is a place for yoga called Yogayama. If
you ever come here, and are a yogi, I recommend you drop in for a class or just
stop by for lunch upstairs. In the winter there is an open fire and the whole
place smells of beautiful soothing incense and chai. During a recent visit I
lingered for a while around the shelves with candles, incense and fragrances. I
discovered a brand called Jimmy Boyd (sounds like a friend of the Rat Pack
rather than a nose doesn’t he?). Unpretentious clear bottles of soft
breezy fragrances that made me think of washed bed linen swaying on a cord to dry in the sun. I left with a ”water”, Limón y rosa. On the bottle it is
written, ”Produced with love”. I like that… The fragrance is an
aromatherapeutical mix of citrus and rose that can be used for the body or
spaces.

This fragrance really stands out in my collection
which, as you might suspect by now, has several orientals and very few florals or citrus fragrances. The
closest, and actually very close, is my summer favorite Escale a Portofino. In
fact, this breezy thing feels like a virgin version of that one.
My agua fresca de limón y rosa soothes me, and I find it an
excellent option for times when I don’t feel like making an advanced perfume
choice or in a situation where a heavy scent is not appropriate. This fills a
void for me as I have been inclined to go all or nothing and felt an emptiness
of the olfactory soul on the days when it was nothing. I have used Rain from Demeter on such days, but we suddenly started to disagree.
But back to Jimmy Boyd. His real name is James Joseph Boyd
(and now he starts to sound like a writer friend of Henry James, doesn’t he?)
and he was born in Barcelona. His career as a perfumer started with studies in
Grasse under the tutorship of Marcel Carles. (Bonus fact: Marcel Carles’ father
was a mentor to Jacques Polge). I look forward to getting to know the nose of
Mr Boyd better.

In Stockholm there is a place for yoga called Yogayama. If you ever come here and are a yogi I recommend you drop in for a class or just stop by for lunch upstairs. In the winter there is an open fire and the whole place smells of beautiful soothing incense and chai. During a recent visit I lingered for a while around the shelves with candles, incense and fragrances. I discovered a brand called Jimmy Boyd (sounds like a friend of the Rat Pack rather than a nose doesn’t he?). Very inpretentious clear bottles of soft breezy fragrances that made me think of washed bed linen swaying on a cord in the sand to dry. I left with a ”water”, Limón y rosa. On the bottle it is written, ”Produced with love”. I like that. The fragrance is an aromatherapeutical mix of citrus and rose that can be used for the body or spaces.

This fragrance really stands out in my perfume collection which as you might suspect by now has very florals or citrus fragrances. The closest, and actually very close, is my summer favorite Escale a Portofino. In fact, this breezy thing feels like a virgin version of that one.

My agua fresca de limón y rosa soothes me, and I find it an excellent option for times when I don’t feel like making an advanced perfume choice or in a situation where a heavy scent is not appropriate. This fills a void for me as I have been inclined to go all or nothing and felt an emptiness of the olfactory soul on the days when it was nothing.

But back to Jimmy Boyd. His real name is James Joseph Boyd (and now he starts to sound like a writer friend of Henry James, doesn’t he?) and he was born in Barcelona. His career as a perfumer started with studies in Grasse under the tutorship of Marcel Carles. (Bonus fact: Marcel Carles’ father was a mentor to Jacques Polge). I look forward to getting to know the nose of Mr Boyd better.

http://www.perfumesjimmyboyd.com/

You can see just looking at the word that it has to be something a bit nasty, can’t you? It sounds like a place on the human body that is geographically located in an angle that only very close allies ever visit. 
As we know, the poetic world of perfume would not be so seductive and mysterious without the mysteries and oddities. Just like a perfume wouldn’t. Perfumes that are just easy and sweet are… boring. Just like people who are just easy and sweet can be. And then we have those who use perfumes like Mandy Afteliers Secret Garden (also has natural civet as Mandy Aftelier is known for her use of natural ingredients), Cuir de Russie and Antaeus (of course…) from Chanel or Labdanum 18 from le Labo. 

Castoreum, comes from the castor sacs of a mature North American or European beaver. Both males and females have castor sacs located in cavities under the skin between the pelvis and the base of the tail. Together with the urine, it helps the animal to scent mark and mate. The secretion has a bitter and strong-smelling odor (as if you expected it to smell like roses…). To create the castoreum resinoid that is used for perfumes it is dried, ground and put into alcohol. The dried sacs are generally aged for two or more years for the harshness to go away. The scent it then gets is compared to dried leather.

Castoreum is not only used in fragrances but also in food. You can find it in alcoholic and other beverages, baked things, frozen dairy and ice cream, chewing gum, candy, meat products and gelatin. In Scandinavia it used to flavor a schnapps called Bäverhojt. A few months ago some people went rather ballistic when Jamie Oliver brought up castoreum at David Letterman. Interesting, since quite a lot of parents feed their kids artificial crap without any moral dilemmas. The vanilla ice cream and ”beaver glands ” appear around 2:30.

What would the perfume house of Chanel be without Jacques Polge? Of course, there were Chanel perfumes before Polge. But he has done so many of Chanel fragrances and had such an infinite impact on the olfactory aspects of the Chanel brand that it is hard to imagine a bottle with Chanel written on it without the content being if not created than poetically surveyed by Polge.
I am a lover of poetry. What would reality be without its poetic dimension? Even if you do not read poetry, it plays an important role in everyday life. I am a lover of fragrance, and fragrance is a form of poetry. It doesn’t speak, but it gives so much.” Jacques Polge
Jacques Polge was born in 1943. During his childhood he spent many summers in Grasse, which he has said what made him aware of the possibility of pursuing a career within the perfume world. It was in 1978 that he became the house perfumer of Chanel and took over the role from Henri Robert who created, among other perfumes, the last perfume in Gabrielle Chanel’s life, No. 19. Before coming to Chanel, Polge worked at what is now Givaudan (then Roure) and before that he did an apprenticeship in Grasse after taking his degree in English and literature. 
When Polge came to Chanel he took it upon himself to both treasure and renew a perfume brand synonymous with the world’s mot famous perfume, Chanel No 5. This perfume was in fact the first perfume launched by Chanel and there are of course many myths and stories about it’s creation. It was created by Russian-French chemist and perfumer Ernest Beaux who Gabrielle supposedly met through her lover Dmitri. Dmitri knew Ernest Beaux as Beaux was the favorite creator of bespoke perfumes for the Russian court.

With Chanel No 5, Gabrielle Chanel, like many other times, challenged what views, offers, restrictions, aesthetics should be associated with men or women.
 Sometimes we forget the enormous symbolic value this perfume has, political I would even say. Today Chanel is sometimes a bit too superficially regarded as the iconic image of French femininity. We should not forget that Gabrielle Chanel was quite avant-garde when it comes to gender equality matters. When it comes to Chanel No 5, the design of the bottle was a provocation to what was “design for women”. It was clean, bold. (The bottle has looked the same since 1924 with modifications done only to the stopper). For the content, well at that time respectable women often chose solifleurs. Heavier perfumes with for example musk were associated with sexual provocation and therefore with more physically generous types of women. And then there was the liberated flapper. Chanel No 5 was for her.

Real perfume is mysterious, but the perfume which many women use is not mysterious. Women are not flowers. Why should they want to smell like flowers? I like roses, and the smell of the rose is very beautiful, but I do not want a woman to smell like a rose.”  Gabrielle Chanel 
Gabrielle was exposed to numerology already as a child as the convent orphanage where she was raised, Aubazine, was founded by Cistercians who were strong believers in numerology. To them, the number five was very significant. In 1920 during the process with the development of a fragrance for Chanel, Gabrielle was presented with numbered glass vials she chose the sample composition contained in the fifth vial. (The number five reoccurs, Gabrielle would present dress collections on the fifth of May for example). 
Gabrielle Chanel, photo by Edmonde Charles-Roux 
Chanel No 5 is one of the earliest famous perfumes with aldehydes. Aldehydes are organic substances, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, which are manipulated in the laboratory. The process arrests and isolates the scent. A myth states that according to Constantin Weriguine, Beaux’s student, the aldehyde that Beaux used had the clean note of the arctic, “a melting winter note” but was the result of an accident. A laboratory assistant mistook a full strength mixture for a ten percent dilution… “Number five”, Gabrielle Chanel said, “a perfume like nothing else. A woman’s perfume, with the scent of a woman.” 
Gabrielle Chanel challenged many conventions about femininity during her lifetime. But Chanel is not really a very unisex kind of perfume house. If you take a look at Antaeus (sage, myrtle, patchouli, sandalwood, labdanum, beeswax) for example this is what you get. 

(Antaeus, a character in Greek and Berber mythology, was a half-giant and the son of Greek Goddess of the Earth, Gaeia and God of the Sea, Poseidon.) 
However, as you might recall from my post on pour homme and pour femme, there are men who for example use Chanel No 5. I think if Gabrielle could visit us for a moment and have a cigarette in a café and read the thread I recommended….she would have loved it.
On my personal Chanel wish list are samples of the fragrances from the line Les Exclusifs de Chanel. When this line was launched in 2007, Chanel took a new step by offering the line on chanel.com. This increased accessibility tactic got some media coverage and was a step that was completely in line with Gabrielle Chanels vision of accessible style.
Les Exclusifs de Chanel includes four scents created by Ernest Beaux (Chanel no. 22, Bois des Iles, Gardenia and Cuir de Russie) and six new fragrances (Bel Respiro, 28 La Pausa, 31 Rue Cambon, Coromandel, no. 18 and Eau de Cologne). In 2008, Sycomore and Beige were added and in 2011, Jersey. 
I have a particular weakness for No 22, which Beaux created in 1922. Also the naming of the perfumes was revolutionary in their uncomplicated conceptual form. Gabrielle Chanel preferred simplicity and the symbolism of numbers. No 22 is also a floral aldehyde but with nutmeg, bourbon vanilla and Florentine iris. After No 22 came Bois des Iles, created in 1926. This perfume took Chanel perfumes in a new direction. It was a romance with the exotism of the time, the longing for the far away, woody with oriental rose, mandarine and tonka bean. 
All the new scents are the evocation of a some part of Gabrielle Chanels life. For example, Bel Respiro is the name of the house close to Versailles that Gabrielle Chanel bought in 1920. 28 La Pausa was also her property, a vacation house by the sea with a view over Menton and the Italian coast. No 18 is the number la place Vendôme that Chanel saw from her balcony at the Ritz. Coromandels, Chinese laquered screens belonged to her favorite decoration elements, she lived surrounded by them. And 31 rue Cambon is of course the sacred spot where everything started and still thrives.
I liked the idea, the poetic idea that fragrance is a kind of language. It doesn’t use words. It doesn’t use images. It’s invisible.” Jacques Polge 

An unusual man brought up the matter of what fragrance to wear for Christmas. By now I suppose you have all made your choice for today, (I would love to know what it was). Tomorrow we will all make it again. So, my thoughts on this are as follows.

Christmas is a beautiful holiday that offers a wealth of inspiration for self-insight and care for others regardless of how or where you spend these days. It is a special time and therefore deserves a special fragrance, This does not mean complicated fragrance. Just a deliberate choice. (Which on the other hand is the way I wish more people looked at fragrances all days of the year but anyway).

Here are a couple of examples of things to consider when picking your Christmas fragrance.

1) What other fragrances and scents will surround you? 

Christmas is a holiday of many odors, scents and smells. Some amazing, some less amazing. Wherever you will be – your perfume will be a part of a larger olfactory sensation. Try to predict some dominant traits and see them as a part of your palette that you work with when choosing what to add (with your chosen perfume). In my home for example there are various white flowers, spruce needles, oranges, cardamon, an open fire, no meat or red wines during Christmas Eve, just white fish and very delicate flavors followed by cakes or warm drinks with dried fruits. This to me suggests a lighter fragrance or gourmand.

2) Who are you spending Christmas with and how close will they be? 

This is actually quite significant. Just think about it – for example would you want to put a delicate piece of white fish in your mouth while your nose is stuck in an attack from your neighbour’s heavy floral? (I HATE when that happens at a restaurant). If you are in company of many people seated very close for the whole evening I would suggest you all go easy on perfumes for dinner. I am strongly in favor of not wearing strong perfumes to dinners at all actually. Or apply them so much in advance that by the time you sit down you’re in a gentle base note phase.

These two are things you should think about. Apart from that other criteras are more for pleasure and as many as you want them to be: what will you wear (style, texture, how warm etc), what scents do you want to feel yourself and what will make you comfortable etc.

My choice today was based on this: the general fragrance palette described above, that I like the classic Christmas style, that my day was divided in two parts where the first was a long walk downtown, a visit to church to light candles for the absent ones, light lunch and then in the evening dinner with few people in a spacious house. Plus also that Christmas Eve for Catholics is not “the real feast” (that is tomorrow) but an evening of anticipation for what is to come. In Polish we call this Wigilia.

Therefore… I chose something light and young, elegant but discreet. From an iconic brand (for the classic feeling) and by an iconic nose. As I applied it in the morning, by dinner there was just the softness of the basenotes. Also, I applied it only on the neck so the sensation was very mild, both for me and others. 

Top notes: orange, bergamot, mandarin, grapefruit
Middle notes: morning rose, Italian jasmine, ylang-ylang, mimosa, florentine iris
Base notes: Indonesian patchouli, Haitian vetiver, Bourbon vanilla, white musk, opoponax, tonka bean

You probably guessed. By Monsieur Jacques Polge:

Tomorrow I will wear my beloved Omnia. The first one. Masala tea, cinnamon, nutmeg, almond, chocolate, ginger, mandarin orange, saffron, pepper, cardamom, cloves, tonka bean. Quite appropriate for Christmas Day in other words. 

Hope you are all having a beautiful Christmas.