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Quite recently Hermès announced that nose Christine Nagel would be joining Jean-Claude Ellena as new nose to create new fragrances together for this legendary luxury brand. It was interesting news for many reasons. One is that Jean-Claude Ellena has been alone in his role for a long time (a decade) and it is hard to distinguish what is Hermès and what is master Ellena in an Hermès fragrance. Each fragrance is permeated by his artistry and endless choices down to the most detailed detail. Some were surprised by the choice. I am not familiar enough with Christine Nagels character as a nose to say anything about it other than that it is obvious that taking in a new nose to work with Ellena at Hermès must be a very particular process since everything about this brand is an homage to detail and perfection. So I am curious to discover what this new phase will bring and what Christine Nagel will bring to it. She is the nose behind many Jo Malone fragrances and Narcisco Rodriguez For Her so not at all a typical French haute parfumerie artist but more contemporary in her style.

Photo of Ellena and Nagel in The Cut.

Photo of Ellena and Nagel in The Cut.

The Cut recently did an interview with the new nose team that includes some really interesting statements. Direct and art-focused, just like the fragrances that monsieur Ellena makes.

I do recommend you to read the interview but let me share some highlights. The description of their collaboration is something many creative professionals can relate to and be inspired by. It’s great to hear a master such as Ellena describe their differences as an asset and then their generous way of working as a strength of their team work. They describe progressing together and surprising each other.

The discussion on luxury is also very interesting, this is really a core question in today’s market and zeitgeist I believe. We are becoming more globalized and more ethical consumers which leads to a decreasing interest in show-off luxury items in informed markets. Consumers want something else than a shortcut that mainly signals affluence, the “specialness” in luxury has changed. Jean-Claude Ellena says: “There is no scent that is luxurious. It’s what we do with it that makes it luxurious. Otherwise, how will we know when something is luxurious? The supreme luxury is to take time, and we have time at Hermès” and adds, “the thing that is important at Hermès is that it is the perfumer who decides whether the perfume will go on the market”. He concludes, “this is really the luxury, the freedom”. There is another perfume house characterized by this rule, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle. A much anticipated launch can be delayed because the perfume is not ready. If this is considered luxurious working conditions for the perfumer, than how luxurious is it not for the person who wears the perfume to know that this is the level of dedication and ambition behind it? Does this mean that these perfumes are better? If I look to myself, definitely these two perfume houses take up more space in my perfume collection than other ones and I made many of those selections before knowing these facts behind them. Not surprising of course that Malle’s fragrance range includes two creations by Jean-Claude Ellena.

Jean-Claude Ellena's photo from his lab. Photo used in The Cut.

Jean-Claude Ellena’s photo from his lab. Photo used in The Cut.

For Hermès fans it should be interesting to read the description of Hermès as a day and afternoon brand. To be honest I had actually never thought of this aspect. When I think about it though I realize that in fact I never wear Ellena perfumes in the evening or night, it never felt right. Voyage, Bigarade give me fresh air and energy as I embark on a new day. Ambre Narguilé comfort for an afternoon that closes circles. There is one exception though, Poivre Samarcande, this one I love for a dinner with conversations about life and travel!

I will not reveal more, read the interview. It’s great. And then you will also find out what smelled of vanilla and mold.

For more Ellena I suggest this interview at Perfume Shrine and this one or even better, reading monsieur Ellena’s own books.

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Strange how sometimes in life different events and experiences seem to collaborate and wave signs and arrows all pointing in the same direction. Where did this one start? Perhaps already fifteen years ago when I discovered my love for art and history while living in Florence. So much aligned and created a map then. Is it possible to love art without also questioning the concept of time? “Now“ is an intellectual structure that our senses do not always adhere to.

Our sense of smell is the best example. My friend Inma, who is now a student at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery (where we met last summer), said this the first day when we arrived to school, “When I smell I can be anywhere”.

I would add to this, when I smell I can be anytime. Any time.

This post is about Arquiste and the personal context in which I am discovering this brand and about the interesting person behind Arquiste, Carlos Huber.

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I love to be around, and exchange ideas with, people who belong to – and in – different worlds. Eclectic minds and environments make me feel at home, free, relaxed and inspired. What is created in such contexts is always dynamic and unique because the mix of components belongs to no canonized instruction. Rather it combines selected elements from different worlds and pays homage to the best in each of them. I was curious about Carlos Huber when reading about his background long before I tried any Arquiste fragrance. It doesn’t surprise me at all that there is an abundance of really great interviews with him. Nor does it surprise me that these seem to turn into great conversations rather than interviews. With his particular eclectic background, both in terms of family and upbringing and professionally and his obviously curious mind, Carlos immediately strikes you as someone you could talk to about many different things for a long time and still feel new. So yes, when I read about Carlos the first time I instantly felt that I would like to talk to him about many different things for a long time and still feel new. (Yes, when finishing this post I already have about twenty follow-up questions on numerous topics for him!). I also knew that before doing that I would have to find these Arquiste perfumes and see what they were all about.

And then there was the Mexico aspect. I’ve been having a platonic romance with Mexico for about two years. I have actually not been there yet. I want to go very much so I have my eyes wide open and when the right occasion comes I will know. It started when I connected online with a couple of wonderful Mexican people through the community around my friends’ band Diablo Swing Orchestra. Three persons in particular – Arturo, Briana and Ale this is for you! – amazed me with their openness, warmth brightness, eloquence and artistic talents. These traits are now what entirely dominates my image of Mexican people. Arturo and Ale are talented musicians and Briana an enchanting photographer. These three have shared with me both their creative work and their culture through their eyes, sounds and observations and as a consequence Mexico glows on my world map. If you read this, thank you.

Briana's photo from Torreón

Briana’s photo from Torreón

So, when I discovered a new perfume brand that sounded very interesting, because the idea behind it was to recreate history with smells, I was so happy to hear that the man behind it also comes from Mexico. And even more so when I read interviews where Carlos shared how that background influenced and inspired the fragrances and even which raw materials were used. (Yes, I certainly do have Carlos’ guide to Mexico City bookmarked. And printed.)

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So, now to my interview with Carlos Huber about his background, architecture, scents that surround him and different aspects of the journey with Arquiste. I really enjoyed this conversation and hope you will enjoy reading it.

Carlos, what aspects of your approach to fragrances are inspired by you being an architect?

Most of them – from the research to the development of a particular fragrance recreating a specific time and place, to the project managing of the design and production. Architecture is very much about art and at the same time practicality, not only fragrance development.

You are specialized in Historic Preservation. Do you feel that you are still involved in that, also with the perfumes, by preserving not only places but also moments by translating them into scents? When visiting historical places or just any new place do you automatically start to think, “How could this place be translated into scent?”. (And then I think – why should “Historic Preservation” be focused only on one sense! It’s a synaesthetes dream challenge!)

Yes, I do think of that: As I’m visiting and researching what went on in there the question is one of the first to pop up: “what did it smell like when this happened? When they were cooking? When so and so showed up? Etc etc. All of the Arquiste fragrances are examples of that. And yes, Historic Preservation is all about the appreciation and significance of the past in our daily life, and it involves much more than bricks and stones.

What is the main value according to you with the preservation of history?

Preserving what has been created before us legitimizes and pushes us to create even further.

Please share the story behind how you choose the name Arquiste?

Arquiste came through a bit of word play – combining Architecture and History and then, it sounded a bit like ‘Artiste’, so it was a nice association. It sounded good in French, English and Spanish and people responded to it when we tried it out. As far as the names of the fragrances, each one needed to focus on the particular story behind it, and also communicate a bit of what the scent was going to smell like. So they are each in the language of the place they evoke, and they have some reference to the mood or their ingredients. So the florals involve the word ‘flower’ in different languages, Aleksandr is indeed a dandy, more masculine scent, and Anima Dulcis, well, it has a sweet soul.

The online perfume community and bloggers have really embraced you from the start, which has resulted in some really interesting and personal interviews. I get the impression that you have made an effort to be accessible and take the time to have these conversations whereas other perfume creators might choose a more limited media relations strategy. Why have you chosen this path? And – do you have a still unasked question in your mind that you wish someone asked you?

I think the brilliancy behind a good question is that it actually surprises you – the most interesting ones are the ones that pick on things that are not obvious but that are important ‘under the surface’ if you know what I mean. I like engaging with people, I come from the ‘other side’ myself – above all, I’m a lover and consumer of fragrance: all kinds, from high-end niche creations of esoteric value to very universal and easy to grasp colognes, soaps or candles. I love engaging with people and I think its only fair that when you create something, that you are ‘there’ to present it. Arquiste is a new brand and it’s important to communicate what its about so that people become familiar with it…Things take time and work to establish, and I think having a direct connection with people is important.

Amazing photo by Senteurs d'Ailleurs from their brunch with Carlos

Amazing photo by Senteurs d’Ailleurs from their brunch with Carlos

You work with Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier on all your fragrances. How and why did you choose them? What is it that makes you like to collaborate with them, what makes your creative relationship work so well?

I choose to work with them because they are the ones that taught me about fragrance. Yann and our common friend Sophie Bensamou (a fragrance evaluator now at Symrise) introduced me to Rodrigo, and he has mentored me since 2009. They are above all my friends and we work very closely – there is a real dialogue, and a real commitment behind every development. When we get together, the brainstorming happens naturally and it’s so motivating and exciting.

Rodrigo Flores – Roux has been a mentor in the world of fragrances for you. What is the most important thing that you learned from him?

To have an enormous amount of passion for your work. I don’t know anyone that loves what they do more than him. This is why I chose to dedicate myself to this industry – I believe in that example.

What does your home smell like?

Like a guava tree heavy with ripe fruit and a background of rich, tropical woods. It smells like “Merida” our candle collaboration with Cire Trudon. It’s warm but very uplifting, and I like that its good for every season.

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If you would try to predict some trend in fragrance in the next years, what do you think will happen?

I think the personalization of scents is more and more in vogue. This is why niche brands are more visible now than before – people want individuality, and I think this path will continue to evolve.

There is an ongoing discussion about the concept of niche perfumes, the definition of it. What are your thoughts on the term? And do you consider Arquiste a niche brand?

Yes I do – because our distribution is more exclusive and limited to stores that are devoted to olfactory quality, not numbers. And also, because they are not necessarily what the ‘mass market’ wants – they have a style that is more timeless and sophisticated.

You seem to be very dedicated to your relationship with your retailers around the world. What makes a retailer special and interesting to collaborate with from your point of view? Do you have any advice (for the other ones) on how they could develop their way of working?

For me, its all about commitment and passion. We are experiencing a difficult time in terms of economy worldwide, and I think a lot of stores are struggling and hence don’t have the patience or time to build a brand… Chanel, Hermes, Guerlain…these houses didn’t pop up overnight. The relationship with a retailer needs to be a partnership – if they want to carry a brand, they should be completely in love with it. If not, don’t take it…it’s a disservice to the brand. Estee Lauder said: “If you don’t sell, it’s not the product that’s wrong, it’s you.” I think this applies to both the brand and the retailer. We all know that there are things that are best-sellers that are appalling, and things of utter beauty that are just not brought out enough.

You’re a dedicated traveller and it’s so nice to follow you on your travels in social media. So tell me, what are your next five top destinations to go to among places you haven’t been to yet?

First on my list is Japan, and I will get the chance to visit in March, when we present Arquiste for the first time over there. I will be in Luxembourg in February and I’m very much looking forward to that. Other three would be: Peru, Turkey and Sweden.

What is your most favorite place on earth?

Can I choose two? My hometown of Mexico City, and my personal paradise of Ibiza – I lived in Ibiza for six months when I was 22: it was a difficult, but very special time of my life and so it has remained a meaningful place for me. Not because of the party scene at all, but for its secluded coves and picturesque beaches, the scent of the pine, red earth, lavender and rosemary, and because of my friends there.

In a dinner conversation described on What Men Should Smell Like (do click to read this, the dialogue is so interesting and Carlos’ description of orange blossom pure poetry) you mentioned orange blossom as your favorite ingredient and explained why. Has that changed since then, is there a new favorite? Do you have an example of a new discovery in terms of raw materials or notes that you have made in the process of developing your fragrances, something that you were not acquainted with before but that has made a strong impression?

Orange blossom is still the center of my heart – but I’m fascinated by Ambermax – a new synthetic that takes amber to a whole other level… it’s both invisible and incredible powerful in its subtlety…I like materials like that. Boutonniere no.7 is the first fragrance to come out of the US using ambermax.

The topic of raw materials in perfume that evoke rituals and sacred ambiances fascinates me. Why do you think we are attracted to them? Speaking of rituals, Anima Dulcis has Mexican Vanilla in it, what characterizes this particular vanilla? Was it self-evident to use vanilla from Mexico because of the idea behind the fragrance?

Yes of course – but also because of its more ‘raw’ quality. Less the sweet, pasty Bourbon vanilla and more the animalic vanilla bean.

I think we are attracted to them because they feel more meaningful than a story based on ‘vanity’… but of course, the topic could be analyzed sociologically much more in depth.

(I can relate to the topic of more raw vanilla…)

What contemporary moments or places do you think posterity will perceive as particularly special and evocative? If you would create a fragrance about a place and moment now for future generations, which would you choose?

That’s a very good question…and a wonderful idea for development!
I’ll get back to you on that one later on – maybe as a fragrance!

I saw in an interview that you, like me, went to Florence in the beginning of your adult life. This city affected me in many profound ways, I was studying art history at the time and it was over-whelming to suddenly feel like I was in the photos in the big books… Everything, history of mankind and society, became now and here. How did Florence influence who you became?

Very similarly to what you describe – it made me aware that actually you could live in a city and live a life that was much more beautiful than you could even have imagined. It gave me the thirst to look for beautiful things in life.

Being an architect and designer of spaces…aren’t you just dying to create an Arquiste flagship multi-sensory store?

Yes!!!!!!! (un-edited exclamation marks) So much – one day – its definitely one of the long-term goals. Imagine it, I could have the books, antiques, objets d’art and music that relate to each of the fragrance, everything to immerse you in a proper time travel adventure. Imagine all the different environment within the store!

(Yes. Imagining. I want to live there, Carlos.)

You get questions about many sources of inspiration your travels, art, architecture, fashion but I can’t remember anyone asked you about music. So, what would we find in your favorite playlist?

Another good question that is actually very personal! I LOVE music – all kinds! And always like to have a bit of a soundtrack to my daily activities…I love good, flamboyant Baroque classical music, and I love electronica and more indie bands. Its always a big source of inspiration that takes you to a specific ‘moment’.

I googled Jorge Otero-Pailos (that Carlos has worked with) and on his website I read this: “Architecture is often defined as the art if orienting people in space and time” and then everything fell into place. The story of Arquiste, why you move between architecture and scents and history. Even why the perfumes are described the way they are. And then I felt like asking you this question – non-architects often associate architecture with “buildings”, right? Or at least some sort of construction in a chosen material. But architecture is both the concrete and the abstract and how these two will relate to each other… Like the silence in music composition. So, what is space in perfume?

Wonderful reasoning Sylvia! (I should remove this it would more sophisticated but I was so into that thought bubble and so happy Carlos got it that I leave it to share the smile with you readers). For me space in perfume is the pulsating sillage of a fragrance… it can come and go, become full and expansive or escape like a ghost.

Some fragrances are monumental, loud and full of flourish, like, for example an Italian baroque church; some are carefully refined, proportioned, and have a hidden harmony, like a more restrained work of rationalist architecture. This ‘volume’ occupied by a scent is like the space contained within.

(HOW I LOVE THIS ANSWER.)

How do you choose the historical moments that become Arquiste fragrances?

From personal interests, curiosity sparked by site visits and travel and by selecting a story that touched the heart – if it doesn’t do that, it’s harder to translate it into something that more people will relate to.

If you would focus on architecture in the future – what inspirations and insights from your experiences with perfume would you bring with you into architectural challenges?

So many – but on a practical level, the experience of managing a business, selling an idea and being good at listening to clients.

Those of us who follow you in social media noticed that you were doing some research in a library during the Christmas holidays and not long before that we could see some vials with hand-written labels… are you working on something new and is there something that you can reveal about that?

Yes!!! 2014 will be a very exciting time for Arquiste, lots of new, good stuff…we’ve been hard at work for a while now and all will be unveiled in the fall.

I can’t wait.

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Arquiste has been somewhat difficult to find for many European customers but this is changing as we speak since Carlos is on a great European odyssey right now making sure that we can find some Arquiste magic in more places. For a list of retailers check arquiste.com or better yet check Carlos’ instagram for the same info but with an abundance of architectural delight, mega-aesthetic running track suggestions and the most mood-enhancing museum-going Christmas sweater ever. I want to add here that I find it truly inspiring to see a perfume house creator invest so much time into meeting with retailers personally and giving kudos to the talented and passionate people he meets. If you ask me, ambitious dedicated perfume retail deserves all the support and praise they can get. If you follow my adventures and musings you know that this is a favorite topic of mine.

Writing this post I have been wearing a lot of Arquiste (and cooking with a lot of lime, chili, avocado, not to mention having hot spicy chocolate cravings). I like to explore an entire range from a perfume brand because I am interested in the vision behind the brand, the red thread. It’s so easy to try one or two perfumes from a brand and make a general positive or negative judgment based on that, not only in terms of quality but also character. But its not unusual that next to a fragrance you don’t get along with stands something that you would truly love. For me my first impression of Arquiste was Anima Dulcis. It was instant love that rather quickly turned into such identification that I even re-applied it before going to bed, something that I basically never do. For the last months I have had a sample vial of this fragrance with me at all times. When wearing something else on my skin I still tend to reach for it just to smell the vial. Even for someone like me who spends so much time happily smelling beautiful things this is something unusual that I have experienced with only a handful of fragrances. So my expectations were very high.

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Haute Parfumerie at Harrods, photo by Carlos Huber.

It is a fact that all of the Arquiste fragrances have an unquestionable feeling of high quality. There is no randomness or laziness, not in the brief not in the raw materials, not in the compositions. They all feel like great works of art and dedication. I will not give you reviews; reviews are not my thing I prefer to share reflections. This is a range worth exploring for the high-quality, sensory experience and inspiring story telling. The fragrances are very different so depending on what your preferences are you will find a favorite. For me, the way Anima Dulcis affects me happens only with this one but like I said, it is a rare thing to experience at all and it is highly subjective. I also really love L’Etrog for the unusual character that it gets from this choice of citrus and the way it goes from being feisty and zesty to perky to sweet to elegant to balsamic intimate.

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I rarely feel comfortable wearing florals, especially jasmine and tuberose, myself but I smell and try out a lot of them because it is often a type of fragrance that is requested when I do consultations. I will be presenting Arquiste florals for sure in such cases for a specific reason – they have a very likeable and dynamic combination of an old-school classic quality feeling and a contemporary structural character. In my opinion all the fragrances also have some kind of twist, call it playfulness or mischievousness even. My guess is, that this is the result of the characters and friendship between Carlos Huber, Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier. There is something in their relationship and chemistry that allows for a certain unruliness and creative wanderlust. Every fragrance includes some less predictable more personal choice. Using etrog is an example, Mexican vanilla another. The breathtakingly romantic link between Infanta en Flor and Fleur de Louis is another. I can sense something in the creative process behind these fragrances that I recognize from my own life, something that simply happens when creative compatibility strikes.

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If you are interested in reading more detailed descriptions of the notes and the fragrances I recommend not only Arquiste’s own website but also the excellent (always!) descriptions and reflections by Clayton of What Men Should Smell Like.

If you have not been up here, you don’t know how grey and dark a winter with no snow can be in Sweden. I have spent many hours looking at photos of Tulum in the last couple of months to lift the spirit. And in Tulum there is a place called Coqui Coqui… that also has its own perfumery. The owner, perfumer Nicolas Malleville, also a contemporary landscape architect, creates fragrances inspired by the Franciscan monks’ old formulas from the time of the colonization of the new world and by the legacy of ancient Mayan medicine. 

This is where I am in my dream, writing my “Beginners’ guide to perfume” book.

Another place that I go to in my mind to smell is the restaurant Contramar in Mexico City. I discovered it through the Instagram of Julian Bedel, founder of Fueguia (more about this brand will come) and when checking the geotag I could imagine all the smells in the pictures…lime (so much lime!), fresh tuna, chili, figs, strawberries, seafood. (Also: how amazing are Mexican people’s smiles? And how do they do to co-ordinate dinners and lunches with SO many people?). Great mood-enhancer that feed! Also the observant ones will see that in that feed who do we see if not… Carlos Huber. What did I say about coordinated signs? 🙂 All roads may lead to Rome but the best ones go there via Mexico if you ask me.

Thank you Carlos for your time and great vibe, thank you DSO for the music, thank you Tulum for visual seasonal antidotes, thank you Arturo, Briana and Ale for your warmth – and Mexico, if I forget to tell you when we meet – gracias por las experiencias eclécticas y la saborosa inspiración!

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Not every one cares about the brand behind the perfume. Or the brain behind the perfume, for that matter. And sure, if I discovered olfactory marvel from a perfume house I did not feel strongly for I would still find the perfume extraordinary and wear it. But I do prefer to feel that there is also a person and intention behind the perfume that I can relate to and like. This could be explained with my day-job in PR and communication. I started out as a copywriter so I am interested in storytelling of course. But more than that, I am interested in the special stories that I believe can be found in anything if you know how to listen and how to search. And that’s why I got into communication in the first place. To search, find and tell. 

For this reason there are some perfume(r)s that appeal more to me than others, there are some brands that I feel more comfortable with and more curious to discover. I appreciate a personal declaration and intention, expressions of curiosity, passion and purpose. I appreciate the generosity of those who share more than their product, for example the way Carlos Huber of Arquiste connects all sorts of life dots in his interviews. Or how Jean Claude Ellena invests so much energy into writing books that give the reader unique insight into the life and mind of a perfumer. I appreciate the world of Mandy Aftel enormously, such passion and endless curiosity for the craft and a generous dedicated ambition to share it. Byredo’s perfumes became so much more special to me when I learnt about the red thread with Ben Gorham’s recreation of memories and places. There are many examples, I realize I leave important ones out by stopping here but it has already taken me too long to get to the point. (Then again, that is not really relevant in perfume reflections, the journey is the point.)

First time I read about Jul et Mad I instantly loved the story. Who wouldn’t? It is enough to know that Jul and Mad in “Jul et Mad” are a couple who met and created perfumes together. Yes, I admit in my world creating a perfume together is the most romantic thing any people in love could do. This kind of story only works though if it comes with perfumes that really deliver, otherwise it becomes a somewhat awkward branding concept.

So who are these two perfume makers and lovers? Julien, comes from a science environment with thorough knowledge in neurosciences and biology. This background is combined with an entrepreneurial spirit that has led him to communication companies specialized in the scientific field. He is also a traveller at heart. Madalina, left her native Romania to go to NYC in order to pursue a future in the beauty industry. The first step was the Cosmetics and Fragrances Marketing program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, followed by work at several luxury brands. So far – two separate stories about two separate ambitious individuals who have not yet met. (I can relate to both for various reasons so what happens then gives me double goose bumps).

This is where the magic starts… One day the both find themselves in Paris and in the same café. I know no details of what happens here more than the result of this encounter – Madalina leaves NYC and moves to Paris for love. These two find each other’s hearts but also a share path, which is the creation of perfumes that tell the story of love. The name seems rather inevitable, Jul et Mad. With the help of Dorothée Piot of Maison Robertet they have so far created three fragrances: Stilettos on Lex, Amour de Palazzo and Terrasse à St-Germain.

Stilettos on Lex is the olfactory story about Madalina’s life as a single woman in Manhattan. It is an interesting one, this super feminine blend of independence and softness. I have worn it to work, cinema, girls’ talk-about-life-dinner and a date. On me, this fragrance is really soft and I appreciate the way in which it is sweet without trying to please. It is very easy to wear and manages to combine a soft romantic feeling with something more urban and mischievous. I don’t know how else to describe it. I really enjoy wearing it, but for me it works better in a private context than at work.

Notes
Head : Lemon, Pear, Davana, Plum Liquor

Heart: Lily of the Valley, Violette Leaves, Rose Absolute, Heliotrope, Iris, Carnation

Bottom: Musk, Madagascar Vanilla, Indonesian Patchouli, Atlas Cedarwood

The second fragrance in the story is of course Terasse à St-Germain… The Moment that changes it all. And this is where you can tell there must have been many candid personal conversations between Julien, Madalina and Dorothée Piot because this is a completely different feeling. Just like Stilettos on Lex combined different sides of femininity, Terasse à St Germain sparkles with different energies in a special meeting. Soft, bouncy, sweet, playful. When you know that this is the meeting between two persons you can find that duality blending. And it is so happy, so extrovert.



Notes
Head : Grapefruit, Tangerine, Rhubarb

Heart: Freesia, Lotus Flower, Blue Rose

Bottom: Musk, Sandalwood, Indonesian Patchouli

The third fragrance, Amour de Palazzo tells the story of the couple’s trip to Venice… If you feel any of the seduced infatuation that I feel for this city you will recognize much of that feeling in this perfume. It is dark, flirtatious, deeply sensual and seductive. It is the scent of the beauty of no turning back now. This has nothing of the cashmere softness of Stilettos on Lex, nothing of the playful sunny conversation of Terasse à St-Germain. This is just pure seduction.

Notes

Head : Four Spice (pepper, cloves, ginger, nutmeg)

Heart: Absolute of Violette, Atlas Cedarwood, Leather, Indonesian Patchouli, Labdanum

Bottom: Musk, Oud, Amber, Papyrus, Animal Castoreum

Three completely different perfumes, which could very well be the base of a perfume wardrobe if you add something more work-oriented. I love how they all emerge out of this love story because they are quite different reflections of the energies that exist between lovers. These perfumes remind me of the variation I have appreciated in my own most memorable romantic relationships. How both persons could be many aspects of their personalities and switch between them. The freedom and playfulness that a relationship that stimulates such variation creates.

I really like the background stories that come with each of the perfumes. In fact, I would almost have preferred to have only those and the notes. It seems to me that there are two different tonalities in the Jul et Mad communication, and personally I prefer the more poetic one which to me carries more of the personal serendipity of this beautiful story. I leave you with the three stories and the wish that all may find that soulmate to create with at least once in life.

She’s back! I can guess her presence behind me by the clacking sound of her high heels on this legendary Lexington Avenue… I turn, and it is her, indeed, with her determined walk, her tall silhouette more real than ever… Pleasure for the eye, trouble for the soul… 
A mysterious aura accompanies this almost immaterial apparition while walking, so beautifully, so elegantly… Who is she? Where is she coming from? A divinity descended from a different world? An animated sculpture carved by the tools of what genius? The perfect image from a silent dream, if it wasn’t for the regular percussion of her stilettos…
As in a spontaneous homage, the crowed steps aside to let her pass… Heads turn… Is she aware of it? Nothing indicates it. She seems ignoring the passers-by, her expression is serene, her regard soft but determined… Was that the shadow of a smile floating on her lips? Royal, superb, her image fades away, vanishes. Nevertheless, she offered me the most attaching gift: her unforgettable perfume. On her magical path she left the trace of a subtle fragrance, yet imposing… an obsessive, rare perfume that floats, nostalgically, like the memory of a Lost Paradise. 
Dream or reality? Enthusiasm or despair? All she did was to pass by… The contouring of her figure and the sound of her high heels marked my spirit… I now invoke my luck, hoping that one day I will cross again her magnificent allure on this same legendary avenue…
Her image disappeared, but during her short passage she offered me the most attaching of memories: her perfume…

Paris. Tender sunlight and bright fresh air of springtime. Saint-Germain. A pleasant noise of the conversations all-around floats over the café terrace. From her table, in perfect quietude, she watches the passers-by… when suddenly she observes this elegant silhouette, virile and relaxed, crossing the boulevard in front of her. They look at each other… They are captivated… It’s intense, magnetic… He approaches… keeps regarding her… A moment of inattention, the sidewalk missed… A false step he transforms rapidly in a gracious reverence, accompanied by this charming smile… a bit embarrassed, a bit amused… Everything lasts no more than one second, the handsome stranger walks away… 
His passage leaves a void behind him, and this emptiness, daydreaming, she already fills it with wild and fascinating perfumes inspired by the picture of the young man… Fusions of subtle yet present scents, atypical but almost recognizable, a soft mix but virile at the same time, of a complete ambiguity and yet of an incredible simplicity: the very essence of a growing passion.
A delicate and refreshing breeze, in perfect accordance with the spring fragrances surrounding the terrace, brings her back to reality… She finally looks away from this sidewalk where the seducing silhouette escaped her insistent gaze… 
Then, suddenly, the perfume of her reverie embalms the air, but rather real this time. The beautiful stranger turned around and approaches, also real. He plunges his regard into hers, he walks straight towards her. 





It is truly her… her, Venice, revealing itself to our first avid regards as the unrestricted décor of a dream theater. High facades come out nude from the dark waters of the Grand Canal, slightly veiled by the mist of dawn, nude, but rapidly ornamented by the marble garlands of their bays. The three annunciating sounds of the ball will soon be heard; the costumed guests will animate the ballroom and the balconies with their multicolor embroideries and silks. 
Will the day put an end to this magical night? In the penumbra, an interlacing of winding narrow streets and canals traversed by bridges. Hand in hand. Drunk with love. Drunk from dancing for so long. We wander through these labyrinths charged with history, trying to recover our spirits after this enchanted night: the long passageways of the magnificent palazzo we just quit, its ballrooms richly decorated, so beautiful under the lights of their gigantic suspended chandeliers. 
The first signs of the dawn envelop the so well-called “Serenissima”. The rich and heavy perfume of precious wood and leather furniture, shone and polished by passing centuries, mix agreeably now with the pleasant and cocooning fragrances coming from the surrounding gardens, the humidity of the old stone and the lagoon that follows and surrounds us… We walk aimlessly… Dream or reality? It doesn’t really matter… Here we are in perfect harmony, we feel free, free to love each other, free to taste as one the same happiness… free to appreciate the instant… Every single gesture, no matter how simple, is now charged with profound significance.

PS: Love this – Jul et Mads pinterest. Fun way to share inspiration and references. 

PS: All images in this post from Jul et Mad.

This started about a year ago. Well, of course to be honest it started much earlier. It started when I was a student studying at the libraries in various European cities that I passed on my young journey searching for my future path(s). It also started when I understood why my father would buy very old books at auctions not necessarily to read them (for example seven or so versions of Qvo Vadis). It started many times. But also about a year ago. I was talking to my friend, and at that time colleague, Karl about how we loved the smell of books. All the ways in which old printed paper can smell… How it is part of the reading experience and about the feeling of stepping into an old book store. When I read about Dead Writers a few months ago I remembered this conversation. Karl had actually read about this perfume too and had the same association. So – this post is dedicated is to you, Karl. One of the most intellectually rapid and insightfully witty persons that I have ever had the pleasure to be around! 
chicagopubliclibrary.tumblr.com/post/31525993209/the-reason-old-books-smell-so-wonderful

So, what happens when a writer starts experimenting with aromatherapy trying to create a remedy for migraines?

Home of the Dead Writers line of literary perfumes, Sweet Tea Apothecary is a Seattle based micro-perfumery specializing in historically inspired handmade perfumes. About three years ago the owner – writer, journalist and teacher JT Siems started to experiment with aromatherapy to create something for herself that would help her deal with migraine problems. One thing led to the other and soon she found herself crafting scents around the ideas of famous historical people.

And one day I stumbled upon Dead Writers while doing some research and had all these lovely associations based on my past and personal references. So I contacted JT to hear more about her thoughts about perfume and the idea with the writers theme! This is what she kindly shared with me.

How did it all begin? 
I’ve always loved perfume. That was always the luxury item I wanted. I think I have good body chemistry or something because people tell me I smell good all the time, even when I’m not wearing any scent. Reactions like that are really intriguing to me so I find it fun to kind of play mad scientist and see what I come up with. I also really like hearing people describe my perfume because it’s so subjective – sometimes people come up with stuff I haven’t even thought of. In making my own perfumes and mixing them with writing and learning about other people’s lives, I’ve really found it to be another creative outlet for me.
 

How do you choose your writers?


My intention was to have a whole line of writer inspired perfumes but the Dead Writers perfume itself got popular before I could release the others. Right now I’m working on getting those ready. I have an Edgar Allan Poe inspired perfume called Lenore coming out soon and am working on a Zelda Fitzgerald called Zelda and a Jack Kerouac called Dharma Bum. My process for choosing writers is kind of all over the place. Sometimes I have a fully formed idea and I just go for it, sometimes I’m just working on a perfume and say to myself, “Wow that reminds me of [insert writer].” Lenore and Dharma Bum were intentional, Zelda, I was actually trying to make an F. Scott Fitzgerald scent and what I came up with just screamed Zelda. I also think she’s under appreciated so I’m happy to give her the spotlight. Thoreau was also an accident. I like woodsy scents and after I first made that one, the first thing that came to mind was Walden. 
Is any of your perfumes a favorite of yours? 

Remy and Georgiana are probably my favorites. I could wear Remy everyday, I just love the honey quality to it and the saffron also gives it this nice spiciness that keeps it from being too sweet. Georgiana is my favorite to wear for special occasions or going out because it has this elegant, sultry smokiness that is subtle yet very memorable. It shocks people to know that I don’t usually wear Dead Writers. I like Dead Writers but two things prevent me from wearing it. 1. I tend to like lighter perfumes that have tea, floral, or honey qualities. 2. I literally spill Dead Writers all over myself every time I make it, which is very frequently these days to keep up with demand.

You categorize three of your perfumes as unisex. What are your thoughts on this, is it necessary or good to separate perfumes into for men /for women? 

I separate three into men’s / unisex more as an identifier for the men who happen to come looking at my shop. They tend to want to stay away from the florals and the sweeter perfumes so I do it as more of an easy way for them to find something they might like. That said, I love wearing “men’s” cologne and have found that many of the women who visit my shop aren’t at all bothered by the label and feel as I do. Maynard is the only one so far that I’ve made with men in mind, Dead Writers and Thoreau turned out how they did and I heard feedback from both men and women that they liked it. I made Maynard for my husband, but that’s another one I actually really like to wear. Overall, I think if you like a scent you should wear it without worrying about whether it’s perceived as masculine or feminine. We all have different body chemistry and you never know what’s going to sit well on you. 



Where do your draw inspiration from in the perfume world? Are there any specific noses or houses that you are inspired by?


I’m not that heavily involved in the perfume world to be honest. Here in Seattle there’s an amazing indie perfume scene that I’ve met up with a few times. They’re really cool people who are very passionate about making artisan scents. They all have interesting collections that you just don’t find at your standard perfume counter. I would say that this spirit of perfume as artistic creation is what inspires me. Apart from that group of people, I’d say I’m more inspired by the ideas, people, places, specific materials. I went to Paris for the first time about two years ago and just walking around Versailles gave me these intense feelings that became my Antoinette perfume as soon as I got home. That’s my usual process – I read about someone or watch a movie etc, and just feel struck by the emotions in their life and I try to capture it.

If money was not an issue, what perfume is your dream to make?


If money was not an issue, I would literally buy every kind of rose out there. It’s probably a good thing that I can’t really afford some of them yet because then I’d have rose in every perfume. I would also really like to be able to work with some of the high end chamomiles. I love the smell of chamomile and have so many good ideas for use, but it’s so prohibitively expensive I’d never be able to make it on a large scale. 

Any favorite ingredients?
 

Right now I’m all about the Dragon’s Blood. I love it. Dragon’s Blood is featured in Lenore and Boleyn, my two upcoming perfumes.


Who buys your perfumes? 

When I started it was mostly women aged teens through 50s who were interested in the little histories I write for the perfumes, or were just looking for handmade perfume oils. I had a lot of teen customers buying up Dead Writers until it went viral and now, it’s everyone. All ages, men and women. A lot of people have been coming for Dead Writers but end up buying either sampler packs or splurge on something else that caught their attention. I’ve noticed lots of university addresses recently. As far as countries, I’d say the rankings right now are USA, Australia, Canada, and the UK. But I’ve sold all over – France, Spain, Bosnia, Greece, Turkey. It’s so amazing to have people find you from all over the world.

Right now I sell only through Etsy but I have a brand new website coming out soon at the super imaginative address www.sweetteaapothecary.com I’ve been on Etsy for almost a year and it’s such a great starting point for opening your own business. Now I’m trying to branch out with my own website and have had talks about various wholesale opportunities 


I am fortunate to have samples of the entire range. (I really appreciate the not only cute but excellent little sample bottles! Everything stays where it is supposed to be, an aspect that should not be underestimated.) The variation in JT’s range is really impressive. It is a grand adventure and olfactory portrait gallery that she has created with all sorts of guests around the table – some light and romantic, some weird, some stubborn, some philosophers and some kindered spirits. Some seem to have appeared straight from a summers evening and some from a long travel in leather boots (that would be Boynard). Antoinette tries to seduce you, Dharma Bum will give you life advice and Maynard…oh you will want to go on a long walk over the meadows with Maynard. HRM Victoria however – you don’t want to get into an argument with her! I cannot really specify exactly what it is, but I do associate these scents and their complex voluptuous character with reading. They go well with a blanket, candle light and a big cup of tea. Darkness won’t bother you wrapped in Georgiana, the rain will feel cosy scented with Pamplemousse. And the harsh HRM Victoria will keep you safe from harm.
“If you find comfort in the tea stained pages and dusty covers of 
old leatherbound books, then the perfumes and colognes 
in this collection will speak to the writer in you.”
JT Siems

I am guessing this makes you curious to also find out more about JT’s writing. I can reveal that two of the things she has written are two novels, one is a steampunk adventure and the other one is more of a dark fairy tale a la Coraline. If you are interested in finding out more about these and getting your own uniqye olfactorized writer experience go to sweetteaapothecary.com or visit www.facebook.com/passtheteapot 

Book jewelry from Etsy
A couple of weeks ago I went to one of my most beloved cities in the world, Warsaw. A weekend here fills my soul with new force like few other places can. There is an omnipresent particular Central European diachronic melancholy that moves your heart, there is a sizzling dynamic feeling of progress that gives you adrenalin. There is more culture, food, music, flowers, cakes, jazz, art and great conversation than you can consume. There is simply a lot of everything for your mind and soul. I love Warsaw. And I always discover something new when I am there, even when walking in my favorite quartiers. This time my top discovery was two – a concept store and a perfume brand in my favorite neighborhood, or to be precise: Mokotowska/Chopin. 

The store that I discovered was Horn & More, a temple of things for pleasure. The first room is dedicated to fragrances but as you move forward you reach increasingly intimate product ranges including lingerie and… more. But I will leave that discovery for you to make on your own. I spent most of the time in the first fragrance room smelling Histoires de Parfums, Jacques Zolty…and Blood Concept

Blood Concept is a very new Italian brand, created by Giovanni Castelli and Antonio Zuddas, that dedicates its creativity to the celebration of blood as “the river of life”. The fragrances represent the different blood types and are very different from eachother. One thing they do have in common though is that none of them includes flowers (yes, you knew I would like that, I know). The scents are charismatic, but clean if you understand what I mean. Interesting but comfortable. And the whole idea…well, it’s just so very modern and I love it. The plans for this brand is to explore new creative horizons and I suspect it will be quite interesting to follow the adventure. As a communications person I also appreciate a brand that embraces social media the way that Blood Concept, or as they describe them “The most visceral niche perfumery brand ever!” does. Check this brand out, it’s fun and these two Men of Ideas seem like a promise of adventure. For me, I expect to quite attached to their “0”, will tell you…

A few more words on Poland/Warsaw… I am slightly disappointed to conclude after some research that there is no Polish luxury nische perfume brand. To me, who is more than slightly familiar with the Polish aesthetic soul, this would be nothing other than an obvious quest to olfactory heaven. (Which also means that if anyone in Poland reading this would be game… to create something – I am in!). To Polish readers and anyone in Poland I also whole-heartedly recommend going to Horn & More for fragrance (and pleasure…) conversations. And then after returning from Warsaw, I discovered that Polish cosmetics store Galilu sell a rather impressive range of Santa Maria Novella in their online store…a brand that can be difficult to find outside of Italy – so that’s my other (third now right?) recommendation. Galilu actually generally offer an impressive selection, but Horn & More is a more interesting place to visit perhaps.

Scents are a constant flow of infatuations for me, but every now and then something comes my way that really takes my breath away. Not that often though. I like many many perfumes, I love several. But then there is another level and when that happens it is magic. Recently I tried several perfumes from Pro Fvmvm. They are all exquisite but one of them was instant love. I have many feelings related to this particular perfume (I have decided not to tell you which one it is, as I wish that you get to know this perfume house and do not want to influence your preferences)… admiration, inspiration, safety. Also addiction. I look forward to putting it on and have slept with it on a few occasions…and keep smelling my own skin when I wear it. Almost have to force myself to use other perfumes as those days at this moment feel slightly “lost”. It is indeed a love affair.

It is with great pleasure that I dedicate a post to expressing my admiration for this Italian luxury perfume house and I do hope that it will lead to some amazing love affairs also for some of you.


Pro Fvmvm fragrances are hand-crafted perfumes that are created with a mix of natural and derivative raw materials. Pro Fvmvm say, “A perfume made up totally by natural essences has a less “gentle” scent, while one based solely on synthetic substances lacks “heart”. The perfumes have a very high percentage of essences; as a consequence, when vaporizing a high concentration of oil remains. 

 Pro Fvmvm recommend applying the perfume in the décolleté and the back of the neck by vaporizing the perfumes, waiting 10 to 15 seconds and then gently massaging the area in order to permit the essence to blend with your skin.

Storage
I really appreciate and like how Pro Fvmvm inform about storage of their fragrances. Storage is so important and yet talked about so little. Every box of perfume from Pro Fvmvm has a leaflet that signals the correct way to store it.

Truly handcrafted fragrances are devoid of chemical conservants and must therefore be stored away from heat and light. Fragrances for sale are therefore stored in protective cases and once bought by the customer, need to be stored away from heat and light. Direct sunlight and exposure to heat sources can damage the perfumes. Storing perfumes in the bathroom should be avoided as thermal excursion can damage the product. The best place is a cabinet where temperature and humidity are constant and the products are protected from light.

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.