Friday, March 26, 2010

CB I Hate Perfume m2 Black March

IMG_4164 The smell of black earth being turned over in a moist spring, complete with earthworms and rotten leaves. An incredibly evocative fragrance, and perfect for me today; I have been dying to garden, to get my hands in the dark earth, but alas, we live in a condo now, and gone are the glorious days of gardening for hours and hours while avoiding my teaching responsibilities and my dissertation.

I wonder what my mother would think of this perfume. I must save up and buy her a bottle. She grew up on a wheat farm, and she tells me that one of her favorite things to do as a little girl was to fill up an empty glass Coke bottle with dirt and then drink it. She laughs about it now, joking that she must have had some sort of vitamin deficiency that was righted by consuming that rich farm dirt, but I know it is because she just deeply and truly loves dirt. SHe loves its smell, appearance, and even its taste. I am glad I have inherited my mother's palate. I too love the bitter, earthy, dark flavors and smells, and I am grateful to have been given this innate appreciation for the complex.

Alas, the full impact of the glorious dirt smell fades in the first 2 minutes of wear, but what remains is decidedly pleasant in its own right. it is certainly a thin, watery 'rainy' smell, nothing special, but nothing I want to scrub off either. It is an intriguingly unidentifiable accord of watery floral notes, with just a tiny lingering hint of that fabulous dirt smell. Ok, now I have been wearing it for over an hour, and the dirt smell is back, but changed and blended with the green floral. SO INTERESTING. I would happily wear this all the time.

Guerlain Shalimar

Shalimar Shalimar Charms EditionVanillic, incredible enveloping warmth, powdery softness, heady danger, just the faintest hint of smoke...but take care. Too much may kill you and those around you--only the smallest amount of this EDP on the skin can tantalize, draw others in like a faintly shimmering tiny diamond on a necklace at the throat's hollow, but too much can be scary and gaudy.


I don't get the bergamot note at all here. All I smell is vanilla, powder and smoke--and the sweet myrrh note, which gives it the slightest twinge of herbiness. The other thing to say is that this fragrance is supremely artfully balanced, a composition that weighs the elements agains one another playfully yet creatively.

Later on in the drydown, you get almost the sense of a shimmering, milky veil of stars floating around you that is quite heavenly. It is dry yet creamy, and certainly dreamy. Like being haunted by a vision of a past lover. And I guess that's the point, since this perfume--as the story goes--was composed to give a scent to Shah Jahan's grief at the loss of his princess. Here's what the Guerlain website says:

"C’était au Nord de l’Inde, il y a quatre siècles. Il s’appelait Shah Jahan. Elle avait pour nom Mumtaz Mahal. Il était si éperdu d’amour qu’il voulut faire, de sa vie, un perpétuel jardin de délices. Ainsi jaillirent de terre les Jardins de Shalimar. Le récit de cet amour fou a enflammé l’imagination de Jacques Guerlain qui, en 1925, créa Shalimar, le premier parfum oriental de l’histoire. Subtil mélange de fleurs et de sensuels accents ambrés boisés, Shalimar est devenu à jamais l’essence de l’amour et de la féminité rayonnante."

So, Like the Taj Mahal, this is a valedictory scent, the smell of fantasy and longing mixed with grief. More the smell of the memory of love than the smell of love itself. Fascinating. And a monument monumentalizing a monument.

Delacroix Nude

Yes, This is the kind of voluptuousness we are all looking for in a nice musky floral oriental. Something that smells like that silk looks, that would cling to the gauzy whitness of her stockings and dress. That would blend with the smooth warmth and softness of her skin. That would smell feminine, yet masculine, Eastern, yet Western too. That is the essence of Orientalism, in its most exotic, aesthetic form. That feels familiar and maternal, yet dangerous too. That feels rich and creamy and woody and floral all at once.
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Chaucer's Daisy

I have just been rereading Chaucer’s obscure work The Legend of Good Women, and I discovered this delightful ode to a daisy in it. Chaucer’s devotion to the daisy seems earnest and intense:

Now have I than swich a condicioun,

That, of alle the floures in the mede,

Than love I most these floures whyte and rede,

Swiche as men callen daysies in our toun.

To hem have I so great affeccioun,

As I seyde erst, whan comen is the May,

That in my bed ther daweth me no day

That I nam up, and walking in the mede

To seen this flour agein the sonne sprede,

Whan hit upryseth erly by the morwe;

50 That blisful sighte softneth al my sorwe,

So glad am I whan that I have presence

Of hit, to doon al maner reverence,

As she, that is of alle floures flour,

Fulfilled of al vertu and honour,

And ever y-lyke fair, and fresh of hewe;

And I love hit, and ever y-lyke newe,

And ever shal, til that myn herte dye;

Al swete I nat, of this I wol nat lye,

Ther loved no wight hotter in his lyve. (40-59)

It starts to sound less like a daisy and more like a lady the further into the poem you get, and sure enough, a daisy lady does appear to him in a dream vision to command him to write a poem about good women for a change. This could be an actual queen, Queen Anne, and thus an autobiographical allusion to the process of being commissioned to write poems. Whatever the case,Chaucer continues to rhapsodize about the actual daisy flower and his love for it throughout the prologue to this work:

That in my herte I fele yit the fyr,
      That made me to ryse er hit wer day --
      And this was now the firste morwe of May --
      With dredful herte and glad devocioun,
110   For to ben at the resureccioun
      Of this flour, whan that it shuld unclose
      Agayn the sonne, that roos as rede as rose,
      That in the brest was of the beste that day,
      That Agenores doghter ladde away.
      And doun on knees anon-right I me sette,
      And, as I coude, this fresshe flour I grette;
      Kneling alwey, til hit unclosed was,
      Upon the smale softe swote gras,
      That was with floures swote enbrouded al,
120   Of swich swetnesse and swich odour over-al,
      That, for to speke of gomme, or herbe, or tree,
      Comparisoun may noon y-maked be;
      For hit surmounteth pleynly alle odoures,
      And eek of riche beautee alle floures.

I love the excited tenderness of Chaucer’s devotion to the daisy! He rises early and runs to the meadow just to watch her petals open and to smell her perfume. And that's what gets me: why would Chaucer want to smell a daisy? Daisies don't smell great. They have sort of an overpowering, bitter, polleny smell, kind of like a dandelion, but not as nice. The daisy, at least as I know it does not 'completely surmount all other odors.'

Does this mean that chaucer wasn't really obseving the daisy at all, and that he doesn't really care about its fragrance--that this poem is just a pretext to suck up to royalty?

The Medieval Garden

According to this fabulous book The Medieval Garden, by Sylvia Landsberg, the large oxeye daisy was probably the one to which Chaucer was referring, since it was the most popular, and, as I have already mentioned, that flower is not particularly pleasant in fragrance. This is a mystery indeed, although I want to believe that Chaucer's love for this flower is real, not feigned.

Miss Dior Chérie l'Eau

Well it is certainly much better than Miss Dior Chérie, which was a truly atrocious fruit and caramel explosion, girly in all the wrong ways. This has an almost herbaceous nature, a sort of accord between florals, citrus, and woods, and is certainly greener and more natural smelling than its predecessor, which are all plusses in my book. The problem is, as with most modern perfumes, it takes absolutely no chances. I doubt I would recognize this scent again if I smelled it on someone, It smells generic, and too watery. A safe bet, but nothing special.


Eating Lavender

Generally I like eating flowers. I love violet pastilles, rose-flavored baklava and rice pudding, and jasmine tea. I love the idea of consuming fragrance. But I hate eating lavender. Maybe it is the deep association with soap--even on the level of semantics, lavender means washing-- or just the sharp herbal edge, but eating or drinking lavender has always repelled me somehow. I love the smell of lavender; it has to be in the top ten of my favorite fragrances, but I can't bear the idea of eating it. For example, once, years ago, a dear friend of mine made some tea cookies for a party I was throwing. So far, so good--I love the powdery, nutty crunchiness of tea cookies. But unfortunately, she spiked them with lavender, which may seem like a good idea to some, but resulted in a cookie which--to my palate at least-- was reminiscent of lavender talcum powder. I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but there it is.

Purple Haze Goat Cheese - Cypress Grove - 5 oz
The one exception I have found is something beyond tolerable. It is the incredible chevre made by Cypress Grove called "Purple Haze" and it is truly special. It does not taste or smell medicinal. The lavender is there, but the soapiness is not, perhaps in part because the goat cheese itself is too tangy to be bothered with trace amounts of soapiness, but also because the lavender is balanced with fennel pollen, whose sharp and herbaceous flavor rounds out the herbal profile of this cheese perfectly. It is an artful balance of semi-wild flavors, all bound together in a little heavenly disc of soft cheese. Amazing.

I will continue to try to consume lavender, and I imagine I will continue to dislike most of the results, but at least I know I can always return to this lovely little cheese.


Yardley English Lavender


I bought a bottle of this for my husband, who loves the smell of lavender, the sweet dear! It has quite a nice almost medicinal-smelling herbal punch in the first few minutes after spraying, then dries down to a very sedate, yes, English-smelling lavender, rounded out with a bit of powder and sage. The problem with all lavenders, as far as I can tell, is that they have almost no staying powder, making lavender one of those essential yet ephemeral elements in perfumery.

I would like someday to find a true lavender scent which lasts and lasts, although to my knowledge, such a creature is an impossibility. Yardley does the trick for that fleeting hour or so of lavender joy, then fades away.

Baby Shower Fragrances

SO everyone talks about scents to wear to weddings--generally big flower scents with a vanilla base--but as far as I know there's no scent for baby showers. I am wondering about this because one of my best friends is having a baby shower tomorrow, and I'm wondering what to wear to get myself in the mood to talk about babies. I am almost never in the mood to talk about babies, and the older I get, the more cantankerous I get about it.

Something powdery and vanilla-y, of course, but it will be hard to find something in my wardrobe that fits that description, since I shy away from such scents instinctively. They remind me too much of babies. Maybe something that smells a little milky. Maybe that Harajuku lovers frag called Baby- I remember sampling that and it did sort of smell baby-powdery, in a good way. Basenotes says love's Baby Soft--maybe I'll pop over to the pharmacy and give that a try. Any suggestions?

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