The Beauty of Scent, Scrutinized for Pleasure

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Perfume Palate: A Matter of Taste [Mary Ellen Lapsansky]


I've been happy to work with Mary Ellen Lapsansky for the past year or so on The Fragrance Foundation's Indie Fragrance Committee, and have learned some basic (but increasingly rare in people) truths about her during that time. She is very down-to-earth, she's the picture of grace under fire (though she's too humble to accept that, I think), extremely reasonable and she really listens. She extends kindness and consideration where one may never even expect it. As committee co-chair, perfumer, author and my friend Mandy Aftel once put it to me, "she's a good egg".

I had to smile a little bit as I read Mary Ellen's answers to my questionnaire, because she responded  much in the same way I would. Perhaps she simply expresses herself from the perspective of someone whose life is largely focused on fragrance, as is mine. So without further ado, read on for a glimpse into the preferences of a pro (and a very cool lady).





First of all, please state your name and occupation:

Mary Ellen Lapsansky, Vice President, The Fragrance Foundation

What is your favorite perfume at the moment?

L'Artisan's Mure et Musc- I've rediscovered it!

What is your favorite fragrance house or brand of perfume?

There are so many that I am partial to that I cannot list them all.  Many of them are niche brands but some big houses as well. 

How often do you wear perfume, and under what circumstances do you wear it?

I wear fragrance every day and reapply throughout the day. If I am going out in the evening, I reapply the fragrance worn during the day or switch to another favorite.

Is it important to you to know who the perfumer or creator is behind the perfumes you wear?

Since I am in the fragrance business, I do like to know the perfumer/creator behind the fragrances I wear. But even if I weren't, I'd like to know the creator/artist of the perfumes that capture my attention. It is the same as knowing who wrote my favorite song(s) and painted favorite pieces of art. With fragrance I find that if I like a particular perfumer's creation, I usually like all of his/her other creations.

Do you follow the work of certain perfumers, and if so, who?

I do. Right now I am following the work of Ralf Schweiger of Mane since we just interviewed him for The Fragrance Foundation's website: www.fragrance.org

Think of an iconic perfume bottle design from the past. What is it?

Schiaparelli's Shocking.

How many times a day do you estimate that you think about perfume?

Quite often-- it's hard to give a number. 

Think of the last time you complimented someone on the fragrance they were wearing. Did you ask them what it was, and if so, did they tell you?

I am always curious about what other people are wearing. So when I smell something delicious on someone else I always ask them what they are wearing if I don't recognize it already. They usually do tell me because they are thrilled that someone noticed and appreciates the scent. 

In just three words, describe your ideal fragrance:

An "olfactive love affair".

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Perfume Palate: A Matter of Taste [Meirav Devash]

[no Mom, this isn't me. I swear it]


Ah.... where to begin? To describe the nature of my shared history with Meirav Devash would be very easy, because we don't really know each other. I've seen her name pop up regularly in magazines for her editorial work and on Twitter-- we do have mutual acquaintances. When I asked her to take part in this blog series, some kind of weird crack in the universe occurred very far from here. It made a huge ruckus out there in space and it sounded suspiciously like Takke's Voldtekt. Meirav and I skipped the polite niceties of making a new acquaintance and went right for the (bbq veggie seitan) meat. Quite simply, it appears we were cut from the same cloth. Which is, of course, a vintage black metallic silk brocade.




First of all, please state your name and occupation:

Meirav Devash. Freelance writer and editor, genuine rock vixen and contributing editor for Allure Magazine.

What is your favorite perfume at the moment?

Prada Infusion d'Iris. It's a non-granny floral that's fresh and clean. 

What is your favorite fragrance house or brand of perfume?

Frederic Malle and Demeter both come out with intriguing scents, but in totally different ways. I mean-- Carnal Flower vs Pure Soap, right? But I'm open to any nose with a good idea-- it's easier to say what I don't like, which is anything that smells like something someone would bring to a party in the conference room  (cupcakes, chocolate, candy) and anything that stinks of the 80s (musks, asphyxiating orientals, alcohol-heavy scents that smell like The Fokkens on too many gin and tonics).

How often do you wear perfume, and under what circumstances do you wear it?

Every morning and before going out for the evening, unless I forget-- and then once I remember, I feel sad knowing I smell like Dove deodorant. 

Is it important to you to know who the perfumer or creator is behind the perfumes you wear?

I like to let a fragrance speak for itself, but I'll admit I'm a sucker for cute packaging. 

Do you follow the work of certain perfumers, and if so, who?

Frederic Malle, Edwin Creed, Christopher Brosius, Christine Nagel, Fabrice Penot, Kilian Henessy, Gwen Stefani. I told you, my weakness is for those adorable little Harajuku girl bottles. I have one in my bathroom staring down at my toothbrushes. I've never worn it, she just lives there.

Think of an iconic perfume bottle design from the past. What is it?

It's not iconic per se, but the hand grenade bottle for Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb makes me so, so happy.

How many times a day do you estimate that you think about perfume?

Just when I'm applying it, unless I smell someone delicious. 

Think of the last time you complimented someone on the fragrance they were wearing. Did you ask them what it was, and if so, did they tell you?

Yes, and I promptly forgot. 

In just three words, describe your ideal fragrance:

Surprising, seductive, subversive

This is a question about black metal: Do you know what the term "invisible oranges" means? If so, please describe.

Oh, I would love to. Invisible Oranges is a stance a black metal singer takes when he's just SO OVERCOME WITH TOTAL F**KING DARKNESS that he has to form his hands into semi-circular claws that look like he is juicing invisible oranges. Shagrath from Dimmu Borgir is a repeat offender.

(ed.- see photos below for modern day Shagrath in the throes of darkness)

[ed: Highly staged poses such as this one are particularly exemplary. How long the person is able to hold the pose while keeping up a menacing facial expression, enhanced by corpse paint, determines how tr00 his darkness is]

[ed: In this variation, his fat wallet is anchoring his body so that the arms and hands can work without the burden of gravity in order to make orange juice more efficiently. All the newer model black metal frontmen have this feature, which just goes further to prove that pimpin' ain't easy]




Methinks we should mix blood orange extract, holy water and crematorium ash and call it The Sinister Citrus Awakening. Actually, that's not a bad first collaboration for my fictional perfume line, Black Metal Base Notes. Shaggy, Christopher, Fabrice, Frederic: Who's in? Call me. 


[ed: Shagrath circa 1995. This is how I'll choose to remember him. 
They're so sweet when they're babies]


Photo at top courtesy of Meirav Devash, who retains all rights. Photos of Shagrath from Ye Olde Norsk Svart Metall Internet In Helvete, a place that can only be reached if you know the unholy URL.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Perfume Palate: A Matter of Taste [Nav Kaur]


Everybody, meet Nav. Nav, this is everybody. Some months back, our worlds collided online quite gracefully, and we've been twirling in the stratosphere ever since. Her blog beautyhuile has been a favorite online haunt of mine and is extremely helpful in learning how to appreciate, evaluate and get the most out of natural oils. I've often referred to her blog as "skin care porn", and once you start reading her poetic yet straight-talking posts, you'll see why. And, she seems to like it when I turn her on to new perfumes (until she gets her credit card bill, that is). Whip smart, generous, stunningly beautiful inside and out and funny as hell, Nav has elevated the gift of gab to a true art form, and I am lucky to count her as a friend and confidante. 





First of all, please state your name and occupation:

Nav Kaur, Director of PR

What is your favorite perfume at the moment?

Jasmine Summer by Liz Zorn

What is your favorite fragrance house or brand of perfume?

None. Each scent has to bring its right sense of provocation upon its first jaw-dropping whiff. I often see a scent gets this right, but have yet to see a brand do so. The mere mention of a brand evokes meetings of 'product lifecycles' and 'target demographics'. And, too often, the mania for passion and perfection gets lost between these. 

How often do you wear perfume, and under what circumstances do you wear it?

Every minute of every day. My remorseless scent paradigm: never to walk out without a scent. With a spritz is how I am truly content.

Is it important to you to know who the perfumer or creator is behind the perfumes you wear?

Considering how most tend to pimp out their works, not really. While I certainly appreciate the highly touted hyperbole that surrounds a new launch, no perfumer actually stakes a claim when he/she uses cheaper ingredients in their storied reformulations. Don't get me wrong, Carlos Huber is someone who definitely enchants his persona into the blend, but in the end, I usually fall prey to a scent's temporal charm, not his. Aromatic nuisances are usually less offensive than their human counterparts, wouldn't you say?

Do you follow the work of certain perfumers, and if so, who?

I do look forward to new launches (Carlos Huber, Atelier Cologne, Van Cleef & Arpels or any brand stocked at the Scent Bar), but again, the sentiment is reserved for the final flourish. 

Think of an iconic perfume bottle design from the past. What is it?

For me, the faceted Coco Chanel bottle will always hold a dear spot in my heart. The famously square cut bottle was my first introduction to luxury when I was a little doll of 16. Polished but pared down, I always feel like a wittingly sensual lady of the world when I see the bottle, let alone spritz it. 

How many times a day do you estimate that you think about perfume?

Four times:
1. in the morning when I wonder what to change up to next
2. in the afternoon when I double stroke a fragrance oil
3. in the evening when I mist without shame
4. in bed when I start googling the perfume blogs to read what's new to try

Think of the last time you complimented someone on the fragrance they were wearing. Did you ask them what it was, and if so, did they tell you?

Betwixt us, yes, I asked her what she was wearing as the abstract scent from her strut surprised me with its familiarity but wasn't instantly recognizable. And, she did share- Van Cleef & Arpels Gardenia Petale. And yes, the fragility of Spring in a bottle was worthy of my admiration. 

In just three words, describe your ideal fragrance:

Evocative, harmonic and meaningful.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Organic body care products worth hoarding from Garden Apothecary

With increasing hope and enthusiasm, I continue to navigate my way through the Etsy trenches with the goal of finding the glittering jewels among all the purveyors of similar looking and sounding natural and organic bath & body products. Proprietor and horticulturist Jennifer Lee Segale's product line Garden Apothecary is one such jewel. Just yesterday, I was very pleased to see her bath salts featured in the September issue of People Style Watch [p. 314], as well!

July in Chicago was pretty brutal, heat-wise, which is why I was so excited when I had the opportunity to try Garden Apothecary's Organic Peppermint Water Refresher ($8). It's the simplest of ideas-- organic peppermint oil in purified water. But, I've learned that even the simplest idea can be mucked up in terms of quality of essences, and I've had my share of duds. This spray almost makes up for those times I've been burned-- it is the most refreshing thing on the planet, and frankly, I feel uncomfortable when it's not within my reach 24/7. I use it mostly as a facial toner before applying a facial oil or moisturizer (and throughout the day), and I keep it in the fridge so it gives me that extra burst of cool. I also spray liberally when I have a headache, as peppermint oil has always helped my headaches.


Now, on to one of the most insanely good body scrubs I've ever used. The Organic Vanilla Sugar Scrub ($20) is just that good for the following reasons:

  • Real organic vanilla bean pods are used to create additional texture in the scrub, and for the obvious aromatherapeutic benefits
  • Sweet Almond Oil and Vitamin E hydrates as you scrub, and when you wash the sugar off, traces of the oils remain on the skin, as well as the genuine vanilla fragrance (note: body should be patted with towel after shower, not rubbed)
  • There is a whole vanilla bean pod macerating in the jar of sugar scrub, and you can take it out and play with it if you want (I did)
  • I was able to skip body lotion after using this scrub, and I usually need to apply it every day because my skin tends to get dry easily. Actually, I would only recommend this particular scrub for dry types, I think some of the other scrubs are more in neutral moisture territory- the Vanilla scrub is particularly rich
  • Did I mention the scent? It's incredible. 
  • Each jar is made to order
  • One jar will last quite some time, because you don't need huge palmfuls, and you definitely don't need to use it every day (I go for it twice a week). 




There is a difference between just working with natural materials and working along with nature to create products that spell out perfect simplicity.The reason these products are so pleasing to use is because the high-quality organic ingredients have been allowed to shine (let's face it, those vanilla beans are stars, and they're ready for their close-up now, Mr. DeVille). There's no phony marketing here, no man-made complexity anywhere to be found, no chemicals and no shoddy workmanship. What Garden Apothecary (and Jenn herself) has in spades is humility, good taste and smarts to burn. The organic peppermint oil isn't the only thing I find refreshing here. 

[samples provided by company for my consideration]

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Perfume Palate: A Matter of Taste [Ji Baek]


Anyone who loves off-the-beaten-path nail polish shades and formulations and considers their creation to be a real art form, knows who Ji Baek is. She creates Rescue Beauty Lounge nail polish. Her designs create a mood in a similar way that perfume does. In fact, I've been known to do scent and nail polish pairings (yes, really-- like Ormonde Jayne Woman and Zoya Edyta). My favorite color she has created is Under The Stars, a deep midnight blue jelly-finish, with hidden multidimensional glitter that you can only see in certain types of light. Simply put, it is literally a Van Gogh in a bottle. I've got nicely shaped and healthy nails (if I do say so myself), so I've made them my canvas for accessorizing. It's a lot less expensive than a new Proenza Schouler bag.

Ji has inspired many and has legions of fans for her cult nail polish colors, but it's her indefatigable devotion to what she does, and to her customers that is truly beyond the pale. While the actual storefront salon is no more, take comfort in knowing that Ji is tirelessly working to outdo herself day after day by creating unique  products that practically anyone, anywhere can indulge in thanks to the magic of internet shopping. Ji is beautiful (see below), she's a bit of a firebrand in the beauty world, she's passionate and resides at the top of my very short and tidy list of color geniuses.



First of all, please state your name and occupation:

Ji Baek, Owner/Founder of Rescue Beauty Lounge. (rescuebeauty.com)

What is your favorite perfume at the moment?

I'm a complete loyalist and I've been a Serge Lutens devotee for over a decade--in the Summer I have the pleasure of spending luscious time with his Sa Majeste la Rose, which is the most beautiful rose with green undertones.

What is your favorite fragrance house or brand of perfume?

Serge Lutens and Frederic Malle.

How often do you wear perfume, and under what circumstances do you wear it?

All day long- in the morning before I leave for the day, in the afternoon if I have a lunch meeting, at night if I'm going out and before bed...

Is it important to you to know who the perfumer or creator is behind the perfumes you wear?

Yes, for me, I can enter their world and know why his A La Nuit has the most sophisticated blend of gardenia that keeps me in a trance.

Do you follow the work of certain perfumers, and if so, who?

I really stick to what I like and what works for me, when ever my mood strikes and Serge is the one and only for me right now. His blends are perfection.

Think of an iconic perfume bottle design from the past. What is it?

Joy by Jean Patou. 

How many times a day do you estimate that you think about perfume?

For me I really don't think about it until I leave a certain section of my day. A spritz before meeting my husband makes me feel sexy and insouciant. After I shower at night, before I go to bed makes me feel decadent and luxurious. 

Think of the last time you complimented someone on the fragrance they were wearing. Did you ask them what it was, and if so, did they tell you?

Actually, they ask me all the time and I do tell them. I have yet to smell something more exotic than Serge's Arabie. Also, I layer his perfumes and they all have this magical synergy together. Sometimes in the morning I can use A La Nuit, and at night I can mix it with Fleurs d'Oranger, which I keep in my studio. . 

In just three words, describe your ideal fragrance:

Mysterious, Seductive, Aromatherapy

Monday, August 13, 2012

Elements Showcase Forum on Monday August 20: Art and Commerce


Since I won't be in NYC for Elements Showcase next week, I'd like to urge any of my readers who will be in the area to register to be present for this panel discussion on the coexistence of art and commerce. It promises to be really interesting. Participating panelists include:

  • Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes
  • Carlos Huber of Arquiste
  • Christopher Brosius of CB I Hate Perfume
[August 20th at 3pm EST at the Skylight West in NYC]






Friday, August 10, 2012

Perfume Palate: A Matter of Taste [Trae Bodge]

I am so pleased to be kicking off a new series of posts here at eyeliner on a cat. I will be asking people from all walks of life a series of questions about their perfume preferences. Perfume may be a big part of their lives, or barely there at all. My aim is to gauge the personal tastes of people whom I find interesting.

That said, I'm excited that Trae Bodge agreed to be my first subject because I've admired her for some time. She's an entrepeneur (she founded Three Custom Color Specialists), makeup artist and writer. She also effortlessly wears the kind of beautiful smile that will either break your heart or set it on fire.



First of all, please state your name and occupation:

Trae Bodge, Senior Editor and spokesperson, RetailMeNot.com Insider

What is your favorite perfume at the moment?

Bottega Veneta

What is your favorite fragrance house or brand of perfume?

I tend to bounce around a bit, but I would say Creed. My favorite from Creed is Silver Mountain Water.

How often do you wear perfume, and under what circumstances do you wear it?

Just about every day. Even though I work from home, I still love to smell delicious!

Is it important to you to know who the perfumer or creator is behind the perfumes you wear?

Not really. Obviously some perfumers are superior to others, but I like to approach each fragrance with an open mind.

Do you follow the work of certain perfumers, and if so, who?

Not really, although I always like to see what the Odin folks are up to, because their work is always interesting, complex and unexpected.

Think of an iconic perfume bottle design from the past. What is it?

Chanel no. 5

How many times a day do you estimate that you think about perfume?

Probably more than the average person because my bottles are arranged on a shelf right above my desk. I like to look at them when I'm formulating ideas. 

Think of the last time you complimented someone on the fragrance they were wearing. Did you ask them what it was, and if so, did they tell you?

My friend wears straight amber, which is a scent that I also love but find it a bit overpowering on its own. However, on her, it smells just right and when I smell it, I associate that smell with her.

In just three words, describe your ideal fragrance:

Spicy, Sexy, Fresh

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Amouage Interlude Woman: a tall drink of tamarind




Not too long ago, Creative Director of Amouage Perfumes Christopher Chong told me that Interlude Woman would probably be the first main collection fragrance that I'd fall in love with. My love for The Library Collection goes very deep and is well known, and as each Opus is released, the obsession grows deeper. While Christopher approves of my slightly raunchy taste in fragrance, he somehow knew that Interlude's odd yet subtle beauty would not escape me. The truth is that I've never smelled anything like it. I cannot even find a reference point using any other fragrances to help me describe it, so I picked out a few of my favorite things about Interlude to tell you about.

Interlude Woman notes: bergamot, grapefruit, ginger, tagete (marigold), frankincense, rose absolute, orange blossom, helichrysum, jasmine, opoponax, vanilla, benzoin, amber, sandalwood, agarwood, oakmoss, leather, tonka bean, musk, animalic

When I first spray it, I sense the presence of a giant tamarind flavored Chupa Chups lollipop. I don't just see and smell it, it practically gets into bed with me. It clocks in at over six feet tall and has a size 12 shoe (I know). Interlude is all exotic dried fruits, candies, powdered ginger and juice drinks. When I think of that burnt-caramel brown shade of the always-bubbling tamarind fountain drink at The Burrito House, the image collapses into the soft, sticky flesh underneath the rough skin of a dried Medjool date, then back to that strange candy again.

Tamarind Candy


Tamarind Juice

As is custom with Amouage, the maximalist notes list proclaims many subtleties, but for this one, I'm keeping my interpretation simple. It's like one giant thought that I might try not to think about, but the more I try not to think about it, the more I see it- the larger amount of space it requires. So I've settled nicely into it. It's the happiest Amouage fragrance I've tried yet- it's still got its innocence. The zing of the ginger and citrus gives away the fact that our fair Interlude Woman is not quite yet a woman, but her wedding day is not far off (so says the gentle smokiness in the base).

I love to read Amouage ad copy after I've written a review of the scent, because I don't want it to unintentionally influence my writing. Because of that practice, my words never seem to coincide with the intended artistic theme, but the primary emotion and the raw instincts are usually quite the same.



After I'd worn Interlude Woman several times, I started to smell other things. Not giant Mexican lollipops this time, but sweet red bean cakes and leather, scented rubber erasers, salted melon, assorted dried fruits served in a wooden bowl with  light savory herbs on the table. It draws me in with a deft hand.

The sillage is moderate and longevity average (less than most Amouages but good overall). I would recommend that everyone sample Interlude Woman, primarily because there is nothing else like it. Its uniqueness stands out not only among other Amouage fragrances but in the market at-large. It makes for an utterly charming and unforgettable fragrant detour.

Amouage Interlude Woman can be purchased at Amouage.com.
[sample provided by Amouage for my consideration]

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Weekend Poll: Perfume Habits--how much and how often?

I have been thinking recently that I spray perfume quite a bit more than I used to. The days of 1-2 spritzes 1-2 times a day were not so long ago, perhaps a couple of years. Now that I've amassed a lovely collection and keep bottles and decants displayed or stowed in strategic places, I'm never more than an arm's length away from olfactory satisfaction. I've just got so much perfume, that I realized that I've got to use it. If I don't use it, it doesn't get to live, it won't have the sun shine down upon it. It will be destined to be an inanimate, unloved object.

[I own this vintage Caron ad- ain't she a beaut?]

So these days, I apply perfume 4-5 times a day, sometimes it's the same scent all day, other times they're all different. And how many spritzes do I indulge in currently? It kind of depends on the fragrance, but usually about 6. One on each wrist, one on the back of my neck, one or two on my throat, and one on my decolletage. If I'm wearing a dress, I'll go for a spritz behind each knee, also. I've quadrupled my consumption, and I feel no shame. When I'm going to be around a bunch of people, I'll spray much less before heading out the door. I'm not without a conscience, you know.

I'd like to hear about your spraying habits too. Is it a clandestine affair, or are you as shameless as I am? Do you conservatively dab, or spray like the garden hose has been turned on you? Is it none of my beeswax? (Mmm... beeswax)