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Iris

I have a weakness for Iris. It is a scent that gives a fragrance immediate elegance and it quietly travels between confidence, politeness, reservation and kindness. Extrovert and disciplined one second, discreet and sophisticated the next. It is also a note that I love experiencing on different people and especially both men and women. Iris is so elegant, and so versatile. So I was looking forward to this.

This is a lovely fragrance. I can imagine that many people would feel very comfortable with it and that it would blend nicely with most body temperatures, skins, characters, textures. I think it would be very interesting on a masculine man. On me, it felt light and undemanding. I had a moment when it gave me associations with traveling in warm equatorial countries. Not because it smells like a warm equatorial country but because it is the kind of fragrance that you would feel comfortable and invigorated applying for dinner on a warm day. I also think it would be lovely with light clothes in linen and elegant sandals.

For me it was maybe a bit too light. I felt like I was searching for something that was not there and like it left me too soon. But like I said, this is a lovely fragrance. It works very well in a business context and does not demand attention. Also one of rather few interesting perfumes that would work very well at a dinner or lunch.

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I am starting to run out of strange animal parts so I will continue on the resin-incense-path tonight with frankincense, also known as olibanum. Also known as the incense of incenses.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11)

Frankincence is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes. It comes from Boswellia trees. Four types species of Boswellia are used and each of them give a resin with variation depending on tree-type, soil, climate and time of harvesting. Boswellia thrive in arid, cool areas of the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and India. The finest type is Boswellia sacra, which grows in Somalia, Oman and Yemen. To obtain the resin you cut the bark of the tree which then starts to bleed a fluid that hardens. The hardened resin is called tears.

Frankincense trees are true survivors. They can grow in very demanding conditions, sometimes directly on solid rock in stormy areas. The rougher the conditions, the stronger the aroma. The trees have to be 8-10 years old to produce resin. It seems that there is a declining amount of frankincense trees, partly because of over-exploitation but also as a consequence of beetle attacks. The predictions are quite sad unfortunately so it might be a good idea to stock up on essential oils.

Frankincense is the incense of incenses, and appears in both Bible and Talmud. According to the gospel of Matthew 2:11, gold, frankincense, and myrrh were among the gifts to Jesus from the wise men. It has been used for a very long time, for example it is known that frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa for more than 5000 years. At that time it was known as olibanum. This name is likely to be derived from the Arabic al-lubān which is a reference to the resin being “milked” from the tree. 

Henry Siddons Mowbray
If you should have the fortune to visit Oman, you can go to the excavation of Ubar, a trade center along the “Incense Road“, that was rediscovered in the early 1990s.

Frankincense has a sweet, warm, balsamic aroma that is stimulating to the mind. The scent uplifts, calms and comforts and is therefore a natural choice for religious and spiritual ceremonies and for meditation. The tree itself is a symbol of life and carries cultural and historical significance. In Ayurvedic medicine Indian frankincense (Boswellia serrata), also known as “dhoop,” has been used for hundreds of years for treating arthritis, healing wounds, strengthening the female hormone system, and purifying the atmosphere from undesirable germs. In Indian culture, it is suggested that burning frankincense daily in the house brings good health.

I think frankincense is a good example of our olfactory memories and identities, not as individuals, but as humans. We have used the same olfactory symbols for thousands of years, and we use them to worship in different religions. Scent is cultural, but also trans-cultural. Scents repel, and connect. Scents, like you, like me, are not arbitrary. Being aware of this makes the search for fragrances even more special and full of mysteries, symbols and stories, does it not?

If you are interested in going on a frankincense perfume exploration, here are some suggestions.

The 1920’s were a decade that had great impact on perfumes and perfume use. In fact, this decade produced some of the most important perfumes of the entire century. One significant trend was that fashion designers started to sell perfumes under their clothing brands, the most legendary one (and quite revolutionary at the time) of course being Chanel No 5, released by Chanel in 1921. Even the bottle was a bold zeitgeist statement with a bottle design far from the ornamentation associated with feminine things. It was simple, bold and unquestionable. 

Bottle designs and the visuals around the fragrances were extremely important and often flirted with contemporary life style. There was the mascerade theme… Masque Rouge, for example, was introduced in a modern bottle, and a box with a red mask. “Mascarades” by Cherigan came in a black bottle with a golden face under a rain of gold dust and gilded triangles. Baccarat were extremely popular for bottles because of their superior quality crystal.

One of the reasons for doing a post on the 1920’s, I admit, is the occasion to indulge in…

Shalimar. A fragrance that, for me, just basically sums it all up. All of it. Shalimar was created by Jacques (I feel this name keeps reappearing in my perfume-life) Guerlain in the early 1921 but it was in 1925 that it had its breakthrough, at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in Paris where it was an instant success. The fragrance is named after the Garden of Shalimar in Lahore, built by emperor Shah Jahan for his favorite wife, Mumtaz. (Also the woman that Taj Mahal was built for…). Shalimar means the ‘Abode of Love’ in Sanskrit. The sweet vanilla creation mesmerized its first discoverers. Oh…how I wish I could have been there. Can you imagine? Being one of the first women to put Shalimar on your skin? The 1925 bottle was designed by Raymond Guerlain and made by Baccarat.


Shalimar had a bit of a comeback in the 1980’s. It was relaunched in a new bottle in 1985 to commemorate the 60th anniversary. This was followed by the addition of Shalimar Light in 2004 which was replaced by Eau de Shalimar in 2008. Shalimar is currently made as Shalimar Extract, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Cologne, and as a Fleur de Shalimar Edition. Shalimar contains bergamot (top), lemon, jasmine (heart), rose (heart), iris (heart), opopanax (heart), tonka bean (base), and vanilla (base). It is an oriental perfume, which is also according to what was fashionable at that time – an era seduced by its own interest and fascination for things exotic.

Other famous fragrances from these years are Arpège, created by Jeanne Lanvin for her daugter’s 30th birthday and of course Jean Patous Joy. Joy was created with the intent to send a message to the heavy cynical Great Depression-attitude that Patou described as dominating society. He asked Henri Almeras to create something using Bulgarian rose and jasmine from Grasse. The result that Almeras presented to Patou was sensational, but Almeras was worried that the ingredients were too expensive for the fragrance to have success on the market. Joy became the most expensive perfume in the world, and a huge success. It is also the perfume supposedly worn by Josephine Baker.

Gjorde ett radikalt doftäventyr för ett tag sen. Radikalt i det här fallet innebär att min hylla är den som doftar amber och kryddor och vanilj och allmänt sammet.

För mig är denna doft totalt unisex. Jag tycker den doftar nyduschad man-med-kostym och lite, well, hud. Tror inte det var intentionen från house of Prada som släppte doften 2007. Vad tycker du?



Nose: Daniela Andrier. Född i Heidelberg, studerade filosofi på Sorbonne innan hon valde parfymens värld. Började på Chanel som trainee. Har en rad italienska modehus dofter på sitt CV (Armani, Gucci, La Perla m fl) – och så en miljard Prada-dofter. En Guerlain (Angelique Noire). Jag har en särskild vördnad för alla som skapat en doft för Guerlain. 2011 verkar vara ett starkt år för madame Andrier: Prada No. 11 Cuir Styrax, Untitled L’Eau för Maison Martin Margiela, Prada Candy och Prada Infusion de Rose har alla lanserats i år.

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Had a radical fragrance adventure recently. Radical in this case, means that my normal range is the one that smells of amber, spices, vanilla and generally velvety things. Told a Mr H about my spontaneous reaction to the experience and he thought it was entertaining so I’ll share it with you.

“I smelled more or less like some stock market finance guy putting on a never before worn shirt just after a shower and morning pre-work-sex in random skyscraper metropolis”.

For me, this fragrance is totally unisex. Don’t think however that was the intention from the house of Prada, which released it in 2007. What do you think?

Nose: Daniela Andries. Born in Heidelberg, studied philosophy at the Sorbonne (you gotta love that) before she chose the perfume world. Joined Chanel as a trainee. Has a range of Italian fashion house smells on her CV (Armani, Gucci, La Perla and others) – and a billion Prada fragrances. A Guerlain (Angelique Noire). I have a special reverence for all that have created a fragrance for Guerlain. 2011 seems to be a strong year for Madame Andries: Prada No. 11 Cuir Styrax, Untitled L’Eau for Maison Martin Margiela, Prada Candy and Prada Infusion de Rose have all been launched this year.