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musk

This weekend we had an opportunity to enjoy the treasures of Grasse more than during the weekdays since we are in school at Grasse Institute of Perfumery from morning to around 5 pm.

After a week of smelling you would think we would be tired of olfactory sensations but that is just not the case. So when our initial plan of going to the coast got cancelled because no buses were driving due to a procession celebrating the liberation of Grasse we quickly adjusted a plan to local adventures.

One week of smelling in paper strips. The luxury!

Our first stop was the perfumerie Beauty Success. Maybe you can imagine that in Grasse a perfumery with top-sellers is actually quite unusual. It is much easier to find essential oils and local perfumers and their perfumes. From the outside and at first glance Beauty Success looks like just another perfumery really but when you enter you see that they offer an impressive range considering the store is not that big. And – most importantly you can also find some true treasures. I found three.

The first I noticed on my first visit a few days ago, Coriandre by Jean Couturier from 1973. Two gift boxes. The reason they attracted my attention is that I have a friend in Stockholm whose mother wore it when she was a child. This is not a bottle you will se very often in stores, I have not seen it ever (!) so obviously I had to buy it to bring home with me for my friend so that she and her mother could do some sensory time-travelling. 
1973.

The second treasure was the epic Pour un Homme by Caron, originally launched in 1934. It has a very minimalistic composition with just lavender, vanilla and musk. A treasure and a kind of male fragrance that we just don’t find anymore. If it were launched today I am quite sure it would be unisex.
My third purchase was a less rare one, but a favorite of mine – Voyage for Hermès by Jean-Claude Ellena. I wear this fragrance a lot and have given it to several persons dear to me. I have the eau de toilette and deodorant but at Beauty Success they had a really nice gently scented “baume hydratant” which I have never either seen or noticed. Perfect. 

One of the best things about Beauty Success is the lady who owns it. After I paid for my purchase she asked me if I wanted her “to perfume me”. I was not quite sure what exactly she meant and I have actually never received this question like that before, so I got curious and asked her. My reward for my curiosity was the most brilliant explanation about how a person that sells perfume should – on a very concrete level – perfume the customer (if the customer says yes). Most things sounded very obvious when she said them but I am painfully aware that many many many individuals who work in retail do not think about these things. Short version with the main ones: 

  • Do not spray the front and especially never the décolletage but rather sides and back 
  • Be careful with glasses (that means do not spray on them)
  • Be careful with jewelry (that means do not spray on it)
  • Do not spray on the clothes of a customer wearing delicate fabrics such as silk
  • Spray lightly 

I know – it sounds self-explanatory. But tell me you have never seen or experienced mistakes with these details?

Something about Grasse… My guess is that if you are a reader of a perfume blog the name sounds familiar. Grasse is known as the world’s capital of perfume but the local perfume industry started with leather tanning in the Middle Ages. Galimard, a tanner in Grasse started to scent leather gloves which smelled badly and after he offered a pair to Catherina de Medici the city’s olfactory destiny was sealed. The perfume industry soon became the main activity as the local leather industry decreased while the demand for scents made from local flowers such as lavender, rose, jasmine and mimosa increased rapidly. 
Jasmine.
Grasse is a town in Provence, the part of Provence called Alpes-Maritimes and just about 53,000 persons live here. Many of the world’s noses come from this region or have been trained here and most of France’s natural aromas come from fields around Grasse. An example is jasmine, a key ingredient in fine perfumery. The roses used in the extract version of Chanel no 5 also come from Grasse. The main perfume destinations for visitors to Grasse are:

• Galimard Perfumery, established in 1747 by Jean de Galimard who provided the royal court with perfumes.

• Molinard, established in 1849 and famous for perfume bottles made of Baccarat crystal and Lalique glass.

• The Fragonard Perfumery, established in 1926 in one of the oldest factories in the city.

• Musée International de la Parfumerie – International Perfume Museum. The museum has exhibitions that show the evolution of techniques during the 5,000 year history of perfumery.

And just outside the city centre, you will also find Grasse Institute of Perfumery where I spend my happy days right now smelling paper strip after paper strip of marvel and experimenting in the lab with own creations.
Sometimes it feels like we are in a movie.
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Oh, this Clayton on the other side of the planet… When I started writing this blog after having decided to make something concrete out of my scent obsessions, Claytons articles on his blog What men should smell like, were among the first texts that I read for inspiration in my search for my kind of perfume rhetorics. I didn’t want to write reviews per se, there is an abundance of perfume reviewers which is great for the market and some of them are striking. But I was interested in diving into a world of reflections rather. And I have a major issue with the kind of language you find in oh-so-many perfume ads and descriptions filled with clouds about “unique fragrances that evoke the sensuality in the soul of what is woman” etc etc… To find Clayton’s work was inspiring and refreshing. For some reason he makes me think of one of my house gods, AA Gill. I think I like them for the same reasons, eloquence, sophisticated stringent sense of humor, directness and profound knowledge of matter.

Some time ago I went all OH! about Clayton’s article on Ambergris. And today I am all OH! again. Read this article. It is from The Perfume Magazine and it just might make your entire weekend. Made mine.

“So perhaps the aphrodisiacal reputation of these animalic 
odors does not come from the materials themselves. It comes from 
the connection made as they remind us of the scented human 
body, a smell we remember from life’s intimate moments.” – C.I.
Clayton, writer extra-ordinaire

Musk is used in basenotes and as a fixative, it extends the fragrance’s life and can reinforce other ingredients. It is originally derived from glands of a male musk deer (the very word musk comes from the word for testicle in sanskrit). If you are interested in the details of musk extraction some googling will provide you with rather explicit descriptions. Today, however the musk used in fragrances is usually synthetic. The main reasons are said to be ethical and economical since the natural production has caused extensive killing of animals. It appears to me after some research though that in fact animals can rub the glands off by themselves so that they drop on the ground which means that musk should be able to be collected like this. But finding these glands would be very time-consuming of course.

Musk affects us hormonally and emotionally. It is associated with male sweat (more on this in a pheromone focused post coming up) and is said to affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and her ability to become pregnant. Women perceive musk more during ovulation. It is however common that men and women cannot detect musk at all. In fact rather few people both sense and can define musk. Those who can, describe it as animalistic, earthy, primitive, clean etc.

Musk deer are originally from Tibet where musk is viewed as a remedy for a bit of everything. In China it has been used for medical treatments for at least 1500 years. It is a bit unclear when musk came to Europe but it is known that musk was part of a gift from the sultan Saladin to the Emperor of Eastern Rome in Constantinople. In the late 1200s musk appeared as a commodity in Venice. Musk was appreciated because of its healing effects but also a bit of a problem in terms of logistics because the smell affected other goods on the same ships, such as the valuable tea leaves. Even small amounts have strong effects on a fragrance formula.

Musk is a mythical and interesting ingredient in perfume. But not only in perfume… rather in scents in general. The powers will lead you into the area of pheromones if you start googling and then before you know you are in the most intricate olfactory-hormonal labyrinths.

Fragrance no 7 is described with these words by Kilian, “An inspiration from the Marshmallow. A pure sensual treat.” I didn’t read it however until today (I wore the fragrance yesterday), and it makes me smile. The description feels more than adequate as I felt a bit like this the entire day. Or no, I did not feel like this, but I felt like I smelled like this.

Holy Sweet, Stockholm
The roses, honeysuckle and the caramel are like a romantic embrace. There is something about the feeling that this fragrance creates that makes you think of women like in the old movies. Of blushing cheeks, soft skin, light red anticipating lips, blossoming cherry trees, skirts that swoosh on a summer’s day and crushes. Total utter impeccable sweetness. And… as much as I love seeing it and it makes me smile and fills my heart with marshmallows…it’s just not me. Well, ok, it is a part of me… Yes. But not enough parts to define me in a way that I am comfortable with so not a fragrance that I can “stay” in.

However…there is a person that is the embodiment of all the things mentioned above. Also she of course has many many other sides and is a more complex person. But. She has that very very very special kind of romantic sweetness that you find in so few people these days. You have met her before on this blog, Karin. Karin can carry blush, blossom, swoosh, caramel and rose with a credibility and contemporary touch that no one else that I know can master. So, my Love. don’t be shy-sample now belongs to her, it’s  a really lovely match. Perfumes like this are made for women and womanisciousness like Karin.

Second day with this diabolic caress.


I am infatuated. I keep smelling my own skin and every time I do it smells differently. It feels like I keep chasing it, the scent. Trying to capture it. Eight hours after application only a soft basenote veil is left and you have to be very close to feel it. So I put my wrist right under my friend Fredrik’s nose. He is a photograper with a divine eye and he has been wearing Noir Epices by Michel Roudnitska so you understand… he understands. He tells me I smell like I am wearing a man’s perfume, but he says it with a smile that can only mean that it is in a really good way. Before he has finished describing his reaction the fragrance has changed again. Which gives me a reason to start all over and reapply. I have it in my pocket. I have been carrying the sample with me for two days, every now and then I have to reach for it. Love is an understatement. Fredrik leaves with arms covered in styrax and castoreum.

For some reason, for me it is really about basenotes. I am obsessed with basenotes. But then I also prefer afternoons, Sundays and autumn. The dance between the resinoids, woods and glands in this fragrance intoxicate me. I don’t feel the violet at all. I feel an almond that is not there. I feel so many things and this fragrance just keeps changing. But there is a constant balance between soft and coarse. Between close and escape.

This is what perfumery as an art is about. The creation of adventure. Artistry and mathematical precision in magic union.

Agarwood. gaharunusantara.indonetwork.co.id

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.

There is no other way to describe spring’s arrival in the Swedish capital than… shy. From an olfactory perspective you can feel it approaching as the air gets softer and sweeter. In the evening though it smells of Baltic winds and gravel. Hard and cold. But there is a scented cure for everything. Some time ago I received a collection of samples from Kilian and they have been waiting for their occasion ever since. The occasion is now. My plan is to go through them, one per day, and share my reflections with you. By the time I reach the eleventh one maybe spring will be here.

Kilian Hennessy, for those of you who are not familiar with this brand and man, is a perfume creator who is also the grandson of the founder of the LVMH group. This of course is not irrelevant, he was brought up in a family dedicated to cognac and early in life encountered the phrase ”angels’ share”, a term used to describe the percentage that for unknown reasons evaporates from cognac cellars. This was one of the things that led Kilian towards perfumery.

After writing a thesis on the semantics of odours he trained alongside the noses of Dior, Paco Rabanne, Armani and Alexander McQueen before eventually (2007) creating his own brand. I am an admirer. The fragrances are exquisite and the perfume house takes much more devoted care of its brand and fans than most competitors. Just look at the website, it is pure dedicated seduction.

So, back to my 11 Days With Kilian. Fragrance number one.


I have been wearing it for a couple of hours now and it is an adventure of the mind. It is sophisticated but has that dark side twist that all Kilian fragrances have. All kinds of associations come to mind… ceremonies or rituals. Druids? Yes, it sounds crazy I know but try hearing an aria from Norma in the back of your head. It is ceremonial in a very sensual carnal way, a mix of incense and leather. Some moments I can’t feel it on my skin anymore and I wonder where it went, then I make a slight movement and there it is. But like the scent of someone standing behind me rather than my own.  Spiritual. It is the scent of a temple. Perhaps not a physical one out of stone with pillars, but rather the one inside of you. 
Unfortunately, I am not sure this is a fragrance for me. It seduces me but it is not ”mine”. Fortunately… I had an instant association with someone else. And I think this could be a scent for that person. We will see.