2011 was a great year for me perfume-wise. It was the year that I discovered a whole new set of perfume bloggers; the year I discovered and fell in love with some of my favorite perfumes ever: Carnal Flower, the Aftelier line; the year I finally sampled Ormonde Jayne. The year that I had a little extra birthday money to actually buy some of my favorites. The year that I discovered vintage perfumes on ebay as well as ebay bidding and sniping (thanks to the fabulous Mals).
It was also the year of one of my favorite perfume experience ever: going perfume sniffing and shopping in LA with my mom (who was visiting from India). I followed where her nose led and was amazed at and quite proud of her tastes. She loved Mitsouko, Parfum de Therese and Jubiliation 25, PdN Le temps d’une fete, Puredistance Antonia and Chanel Cuir de Russie. It gave me great joy to see her take furtive sniffs from her wrist when she thought no one was watching. It was like looking into a mirror!! Now I can conveniently blame my fragrant obsession on my genes (and so does my husband). Following her nose, I explored genres and perfumes that I hadn’t sniffed before. After much exploring I found patterns in her taste – she loved green florals and fruity chypres! And because of her, I discovered my own great love for all kinds of chypres : dirty, fruity, leathery, animalic.
Here are my top ten favorite perfume discoveries of 2011 in no particular order (Let’s see if I can actually stick to 10)
1. Frederic Malle Carnal Flower : I might have briefly sniffed this on paper a while ago and dismissed it, but finally tried it on skin this year. Till then, the only tuberose soliflore I loved was Serge Luten’s Tubereuse Criminelle and I thought that perfume was the first and last word on my favorite flower. Turned out Carnal Flower had many words to add ( and what exquisite words they are!)
It seems almost impossible to pick just one favorite from the Aftelier perfumes- I love so many of them! But for this list I think I’ll pick the easy loves- the ones I fell in love with at first sniff. Often easy loves don’t last but these did.
2. Aftelier Cepes and Tuberose : Unlike Tango, this was love at first sniff. I found it so easy to like that I thought I’d get over it soon enough, but after several wearings I still love it. This perfume makes me happy! Not a frivolous, flirty happiness but like a golden ball that I’ve swallowed whole, it lights me up from inside. I’ve attempted to review it but I find this perfume impossible to analyze and I don’t want to tease apart its notes. It is rich and earthy and sweet and beautiful and vibrates at exactly my frequency. And it deserves its own post, so more on it later.
3. Aftelier Secret Garden : The moment I smelled this I thought “this is what perfume should smell like”. It is mysterious and seductive, yet strangely comforting and smelling it makes me feel like I’ve found something precious at the bottom of a dusty wooden treasure chest. I have hemmed and hawed about buying it because of the animal ingredients but I have a feeling that a bottle of this might be mine yet (AAh- the things we do for beauty!). This is probably one of the more accessible of Mandy’s perfumes and if you love vintage perfumes in the vein of DSH Pandora, I highly recommend that you try it.
Which brings me to
4. DSH Perfumes Pandora : This perfume smells freakishly like my great grand mother. I even called her up the day I smelled it to find out exactly what she wears. I haven’t found a satisfactory answer but I think something about the scent of sandalwood powder that she uses along with the smell of her makeup and silk sarees generate the scent that seems so similar to Pandora. This perfume was so evocative of her that I thought I might not be able to wear it, but turns out it is just so lovely that I can and do and definitely want a bottle of.
Speaking of evocative perfumes, I have to mention
5. Etat Libre d’ Orange Rien : Rien was so evocative of certain places that I have visited that I fell in love with it. I thought of it more as a incense perfume than an animalic leather perfume till I smelled:
6. Prada Cuir Ambre parfum : Cuir Ambre revealed the beauty of leather perfumes to me. It was soft yet deep and smelling it I understood the structure of Rien better. I realized how Rien was created as an amping up of leather, ambre and animalic notes.
Amber is a note that I should theoretically love but in practice find difficult with a few exceptions:
7. Puredistance M : Oh what a beautiful amber this is. Everything about this perfume is so smooth and I don’t know, gentle? There are no sharp edges or corners, yet it is satisfyingly deep and interesting. Gently leathery, gently ambery, with a liquid thread of spices that reminds me of a muted Caron Poivre.
8. Parfum d’ Nicolai Le temps d’une fete : Dappled light , dappled light, dappled light. That is what I want to say when I think of and smell this fragrance. A pool of green tinged dappled light that will now forever be my mother’s scent. She wore it for the first time this year, but it just melted into her skin and became her perfume.
9. Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois : As many people have pointed out, this perfume is reminiscent of Chanel Bois des Iles (the beginning also reminds me of Givenchy Organza Indecence). However, I find my decant of the recent Les Exclusifs version not as satisfying as I remember it being. But where Bois des Iles doesn’t satifsy, Champagne de Bois steps in. It is chewy and thick and the sandalwood note is swoon-worthy. Many thanks to the generous Rappleyea for my sample.
10. Vintage Chanel No. 5 parfum : My first bottle of vintage perfume. Also my second bottle of vintage perfume (yes- I was greedy and bought two bottles.). Chanel no. 5 was exactly the kind of perfume that I didn’t want to wear 6 years ago. It is exactly the kind of perfume that I want to wear now. It is perfumey and old fashioned and powdery. And Grand. No. 5 was released first on 5th May which is my Birthday. I discovered it just before my 5th wedding anniversary. the first bottle (50s vintage) turned out to be my 5th wedding anniversary present (unsniffed) . You have to admit, I was destined to love this!
11. Vintage Christian Dior Miss Dior and Amouage Jubliation 25 : aahh- chypres. Two very different kinds of chypres but both evoke ambery-gold textures in my head. Miss Dior is gloriously animalic and I wear it even though my husband makes a face every time he smells it. I fell in love with Jubiliation 25 after I bought a decant of it for my mother. It reminds me of Indian Weddings and is the perfect scent to wear with a maroon kanjeevaram saree.
12. Guerlain Shalimar parfum : This was also the year, I finally ‘got’ Shalimar. I show considerable restraint by not wearing it to work. I apply lavishly at home though, much to my husband’s dismay.
Yes- I cheated. There are more than 10 perfumes in this list. But as I said, before- this was a great perfume year for me!! And I haven’t even included so many other perfumes I discovered/re-discovered and that I really liked/loved like By Kilian Sweet Redemption, Ormonde Jayne Ta’if, Guerlain Mitsouko, Aftelier Tango, Fig, Mona di Orio Oud. So considering how many I didn’t mention, I think 12 is a very small number, don’t you?
HAPPY NEW YEAR! and hope all your fragrant (and non-fragrant) wishes come true!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah!
I’ve lived 20 miles from Disneyland for the last five years without ever visiting it. So last Friday S and I decided to make a trip of it. I donned my kiddie hat determined to enjoy my first trip to Disneyland. As children, my sister and I dreamed of visiting Disneyland- the fairy princesses, the dressed up characters; we even made up ‘Santa Claus’ stories mostly describing to each other the magical toys that Santa might make. So I missed her as I entered Disneyland. I did enjoy parts of it, like the blue curtains in Winnie the Pooh’s house (above picture) and the Splash Mountain Ride with creatures singing ‘Zip a dee doo dah’ on the landing. But mostly I felt too old for it and as if I was trying too hard to love it. I felt much more at home the next day at a used bookstore in Downtown LA, browsing, buying gifts for my husband and generally lounging on a sofa with a few classics. Used bookstores are one of my favorite places to be, but more on that later. Oh, I did find a perfume store in Disneyland and entered it much to my husband’s annoyance (‘Not here too’, said he). I was curious about the modern version of Miss Dior (which is quite nice, by the way) and resniffed Shalimar Parfum Intial, which I sometimes liked, but mostly found too sweet.
The sight of a Christmas tree with gifts underneath always warms my heart and this post by Undina inspired me to make an effort to bring a little bit of the holiday into my home. Here’s my itsy bitsy holiday tree.
I spent the day watching one of my favorite Disney movies : ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (who doesn’t love a heroine with her nose buried in a book?) followed by ’It’s a wonderful life’ which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Aah..used bookstores. To me nothing compares with the joy of prowling through a used bookstore, with stacks and stacks of books, not knowing exactly what I might find. In Bangalore, where I spent most of my teenage years, I loved Select Bookshop which came with the stacks of books as well as a wizened old owner who had his own stories to tell and often quite willing to chat. Later, a new bookstore called Blossoms opened up which also had a pretty good collection of used books that I would hungrily dip into. But my favorite bookstore in Bangalore was this tiny bookstore called Premier Book Shop. To be honest, it wasn’t even a used bookstore but it deserves that honorary status owing to the piles of books lining the walls all the way from the floor to the ceiling. And the 20% discount that the owner, Mr. Shanbagh, always gave his customers. I’d find a chair or a stool, place it near the stack that looked most inviting to me and climb it as I looked through the books, lovingly touching a few here and there.
When I came to the U.S, I managed to find a darling used bookstore called Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe in the small University town in which I lived. I have spent hours hidden in the corners of this bookstores on rainy afternoons and other difficult days.
In the city I currently live in, there aren’t too many independent bookstores, leave alone, used bookstores, but we do have a wonderful public library and a tiny bookstore associated with the library where I’ve managed to snag amazing finds for not more than a couple of dollars.
I’ve only recently started exploring the used bookstores in LA (which is less than an hour from where I live). I really enjoyed browsing through the ‘Last Bookstore‘ which has a small but well-edited collection of books and lovely customer service. Their collection of books on film and film makers was especially impressive. Next, I look forward to exploring the Iliad Bookstore about which I’ve heard great things.
One of my favorite bookstores in the U.S is probably Green Apple Bookstore in San Francisco which I visited very recently and mentioned in this post. I don’t know what it is about this bookstore. Maybe it is that warm dusty book smell that envelopes you when you enter.
Maybe, it is the amazing collection of books.Maybe it is the tiny notecards that are placed in front of some books with comments by the employees. Like this
What are some of your favorite bookstores, used or new?
And wishing you all a very Happy ‘rest of the break’ and if I don’t post soon- a very Happy New Year filled with all your favorite things!!
We went for a short trip to San Francisco over Thanksgiving weekend and had a wonderful time: walking through the city, eating our way through the different neighborhoods, smelling, and drinking in all the loveliness that this city has to offer. I have so much to say about what we did and ate and saw, but I will start with my favorite moments, encapsulating them in this post while the memories are still fresh.
My favorite moments, some long, some short, some very steep and hilly:
1. Walking in the Mission District, up and down the slope-y roads, looking at the murals and houses and accidentally chancing upon a very cute shop.
2. Tasting the spicy cauliflower soup at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Cafe. Have you read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Do you remember the part when Willy Wonka talks about this special chewing gum, that when you chewed you could feel a whole meal going down your throat? As I was swallowing the soup, I remembered Willy Wonka’s magic chewing gum. Because this simple looking soup evoked the tastiest warm and spicy gobi sabji I have ever tasted. It was a very smooth soup but I could feel the texture of the cauliflower spiced with corriander and other spices warmly sliding down my throat.
Oh and that glass next to the cauliflower soup is filled with the most deliciously wine-y grape juice.
3. Meeting the lovely Mandy Aftel in her Berkeley studio and ‘sniffing’ some of her glorious raw materials: gorgeous castoreum, aged sandalwood and patchouli and the most wonderful aged tuberose absolute that i have ever smelled. I have said before that though I like the scent of tuberose absolute, it doesn’t quite touch the beauty of the actual flower. This absolute did, capturing the cool camphorous sweetness of my favorite flower.
4. Walking into the Castro Theatre for ‘Sing along Sound of Music’ and seeing this.
5. Smelling the dusty warm scent of books as we entered Green Apple Bookstore in Richmond. It has been a while since I have had such a smell greet me as I enter a store. The hour that we spent there was one of my favorite long moments of the trip.
And belated Happy Birthday to my darling sister! We were in San Francisco during her birthday, so I hope she enjoys her San Francisco themed gifts.
It is always very sad to lose a loved one, no matter what their age. However, when somebody so young dies, there is an extra shadow that lingers. I was very shocked to hear of Mona di Orio’s passing. I had recently discovered her perfumes, having bought a small split of her Oud perfume made from real oud from Laos. It is a beautiful perfume, with the deep sonorous oud, calming incense and the fruity edible osmanthus that weaves in like a coquettish surprise but stays like a cuddly soft blanket. I wore this perfume yesterday as my small tribute to the talented perfumer that Mona Di Orio was. I feel a little sad that I didn’t write about Oud while she was alive, but to invoke a cliche- better late than never?
Image Source: luckyscent
Some scents remind me of a thunderstorm – especially one particular thunderstorm. I am sure I must have witnessed many storms, but this one I remember particularly well. I was standing in one of the balconies in my grandfather’s house, singing to myself, as a break from studying. I used to do that pretty often then. Take a singing-dancing break in the balcony, I mean. Twirling and singing, and giddy that I could do that with a sharp breeze hitting my face and nobody watching. I don’t remember the sequence of events, my memories seem to be stored as snapshots these days- the balcony, the singing, the thunderstorm. I don’t even know whether the singing and dancing were from the same day as the thunderstorm, but they both had the balcony in common. So, where was I? Yes, standing in the balcony and.. Thunderstorm.
The air had an electric dampness, that day. Dark heavy clouds, as if moving from some place far away towards me. Orange, angry sky. And I stood facing it, watching as the thunder rolled along with the clouds. Letting myself meet the force, the energy, at some point outside of me. And the movement swept over me and I must have let myself completely go. Because when it had ended I felt exhausted yet completely expressed. In a way, not sure if I was watching or being the storm.
I feel very similarly while watching a stormy sea lash against rocks during high tide. There seems to be a strange kind of beauty in this disturbing intensity that pulls me out and comforts me.
Yes, with perfumes too there are times when perfect beauty just won’t do. For those times, I need Thunderstorm scents. A perfume with that something disturbing that battles with me till I submit to its beauty, both comforted and expressed. Almost serving as an external point of focus that centers me.
So my list of Thunderstorm Perfumes in no particular order (*drum roll*):
1. Montale Black Aoud : With the leathery thorny oud and a luscious red rose, this was my first Thunderstorm Scent.
2. Aftelier Shiso (generously applied) : Here the comfort and discomfort are perfectly balanced, a piercing green arrow followed by softer green whispers.
3. Aftelier Tango : What more can I say about Tango, that hasn’t been said before? It is intensely disturbing, yet warm and comforting..like a prickly thick rug that you never want to let go off.
What are your Thunderstorm scents?
Image Credit : http://www.flickr.com/photos/krystiano/5911286218/ via Creative Commons
I LOVE figs. The ooey gooey richness of the dried version. The bright yet fleshy richness of the ripe fruit. Yes, the recurring adjective when I think of all forms of fig is their scrumptious richness. Aftelier’s Fig definitely has a richness borrowed from the fruit. Yet, it has an elegance that I haven’t encountered before. A fruity, boozy elegance, if you will. More like forbidden than fresh wholesome fruit, with almost a plummy prune-like quality.
I happened to read on the Aftelier website that Mandy Aftel had named a lily perfume, ‘Orchid’ only because she thought of her favorite oriental lilies as being an olfactory equivalent of the visual impression of Orchids. And then when I smelled Fig, I had to smile at her whimsical naming schemes. To think that this is just a ‘Fig Perfume’ would be underestimating it. Mandy Aftel has painted an impressionist’s Fig. Trish from Scent Hive also seemed to view this perfume as such. And I agree with her, that this impressionistic perfume, does not evoke Monet’s gentle, watery strokes. To me, it seems to contain colors from Rembrandt’s palette.. And instead of limiting the perfume to being an impression of a fig, Mandy extends the fig, nudging it into an unfamiliar realm of brown burnished silk and heady wine-drenched sunshine.
Each time I sniff ‘Fig’ (and also Cepes and Tuberose), I feel both a strange longing and sadness. One of my favorite characters as a child was Anne (of Green Gables) and I especially identified with her love of beautiful things. And how something too beautiful ‘aches’. I think that is one of the reasons I have to write and one of the reasons I blog. It is my
valiant attempt to pin down something beautiful, an exercise in self-delusion maybe, but it makes beauty more bearable by making me think it will last.
[I realized Marina says something very similar in her beautiful review of Aftelier’s Parfum de Maroc]
This warmly rounded perfume hides a few spicy corners that are more pronounced when layered with Shiso. It is one of my favorite layering combinations . Try it! Now!
Disclosure: I won a mini of this in a draw! Images via We Heart It
When I lived in Bangalore, I lived in an area called Malleswaram. One of the oldest parts of Bangalore, it still retains an old world charm. It has been, maybe, twelve years since I’ve actually lived there, but I can still see the vegetable market with the vendors lining either side of a tented area. If I try harder, I can even hear their voices loudly proclaiming the price of 1 kg of beans, carrots, drumsticks. I remember being able to see the flower market from the bus stand on the way home. And if I really peer hard, I can still see the juicy, thick strands of pink roses hanging in front of the stalls.
I walk out of a temple, holding a few jasmine flowers and sucking on orange-colored sugar crystals (kalkand). It has just rained, I can smell the damp earth. And water drips on my forehead from one of the overhanging leafy branches. I am now walking down a road in Malleswaram holding my grandfather’s hand; I carefully step on to the footpath. I can smell a mixture of filter coffee and hot vadas from the neighboring darshini. A couple of buses amble past me. I finally stop by a small shop that sells wooden objects; jewel boxes, pencil holders, wall hangings. I bend a little and walk in. There is a black dusty leather sofa in the corner of the shop. I can smell the sandalwood incense that has been lit near a picture of Lord Ganesha; kumkum, turmeric and vibhudi smeared on his forehead. The owner greets me, vibhudi smeared on his forehead too. I take a deep breath, slowly turn towards the door and sigh happily. And then I realize, I am smelling Rien.
Etat Libre d’Orage Rien is one of the most evocative perfumes I’ve smelt in recent times. It smells exactly like that tiny store and other stores (that sell wooden things) in Malleswaram. With the dusty dry leather and smoky incense, it also faithfully transports me there every time I wear it. So, I ask you, who needs a time machine?
Disclosure : sample provided by luckyscent