Fragrant reads we recommend: Nose Dive by Catherine Haley Epstein

This week we’re diving in nose-first to Catherine Haley Epstein‘s Nose Dive – a brilliant book for adventurous noses. We have a whole scented bookshelf of Fragrant Reads we recommend, so do please feel free to browse at your leisure, from literary to scientific and everything in-between.

Meanwhile, let’s get up close and personal with our sense of smell, and re-connect our sense of wonder as we read…

On the back of the book, author, artist and scent-maker, Catherine Haley Epstein, introduces her book in a way that intrigued and delighted us immediately. Describing it as a handbook for taking ‘…Adventures for your nose in art, anthropology, and science, the book Nose Dive is a broad introduction to olfactory culture meant for artists or anyone curious about the power of scent.’ Well that’s pretty much a checklist of our intersts, so we were eager to learn more, and Epstein contnues: ‘Something is in the air with respect to our most powerful and least regarded sense. This book demystifies the world of scent, provides springboards for further study, and presents exercises for shifting gears with your nose. A must-read for anyone intrigued by the superpower right under our noses.’ Consider us sold!

Epstein was lovely enough to send us a first-edition copy of her book with a letter, saying further that she wrote it because she wanted ‘…to invite dialogue from the different aspects of the scent arena.’ And also explaining the cover of the book is ‘Tiffany blue… not for the reason you might think – it’s actually the colour of my favourite smell, a pool toy.’

You know what they say about finding kindred spirits? We think she’s definitely one of us

Reading Nose Dive is an absolute must for anyone of us who’s wanted to dive deeper than merely smelling nice by spraying something beautiful, deeper still than having a particular memory connected to smell – Epstein manages to express both a childish glee at this super-power right under (and in) our noses, while explaining some complex theories and inviting the reader to explore. There are short, easily digestible chapters on Art, the science of smelling, things to consider when making a perfume and on extolling the utter joy that our sense of smell can bring. On that first thorny issue of art, and in answer to the on-going debate as to whether perfume ‘deserves’ to be classed as such, Epstein puts it perfectly by saying, simply, that ‘Art is translation. Art is a human-specific activity for translating our experiences, using whatever mediums we can.’

Along with theoretical discussions, pondering on her own years of research and development, Epstein also offers some practical exercises for those interested in making their own fragrances, or things to think about, study and and enjoy in your own time. Half the joy of Nose Dive, in fact, is that it doesn’t pretend to have all the answers or place itself on a pedestal to preach about perfume to the already converted. Neither does it simply re-hash historical references and methods of making fragrance or only focus on new, exciting niche houses. This is a well-considered work that manages to pack in some powerful topics and truly thoughtful themes into such a slim volume, you can practically feel the waves of excitement about perfume and smell pulsating from every page. Not only to read and enjoy for yourself, we suggest this is one to press into the hands of everyone who’s ever asked you why you’re so obsessed with scent… Spread the love!

Nose Dive by Catherine Haley Epstein, $25 catherinehaleyepstein.com

By Suzy Nightingale

Isn’t it time to ‘treat yourself?’

Listen, the signs and suggestions for V-Day have been in the shops the moment they cleared the tinsel and trees away, but if you’re not in a conventional romantic relationship – through choice or otherwise – we know you can start to feel sick of it all well before the box of half-price chocolates are opened.

So we say: don’t wait – why not treat yourself to some scented goodies this year? We have no doubt there are all sorts of reasons you should be kind to yourself, and things you deserve to celebrate. Managed to get through January without murdering anyone? That’s a win!

Here’s our edit of some fabulously fragrant ways to indulge

 

 

The Anima Vinci Discovery Set invites you to take a breath and re-connect, with scents showcasing ingredients designed to help you seek inner strength, peace and joyfulness – literally a monent to stop and smell the roses (or jasmine, ylang ylang, sesame, palo santo…). The creative expression of founder and industry expert, Nathalie Vinciguerra‘s strong belief in the power of fragrance and the positive effect it can have on your heart, mind and spirit, these perfumes have been created in collaboration with the world’s top ‘noses’. Think: Fanny BalThomas Fontaine, Michel Roudnitska, Christian Provenzano, Beverley Bayne and Randa Hammami – true experts and alchemists in the world of fragrance. Which one will you connect with first…?

Lime Spirit — Lime acts as a stimulating tonic for the mind and body. Lime pacifies your mood and boost brain power. It is a powerful ancient remedy for cleansing the aura and restoring self-confidence

Rose Prana — It benefits the heart chakra that is responsible for love, spiritual wisdom and mental clarity. Influences the central nervous system, boosts self-confidence, self – esteem and positive feeling. Strengthens the aura and stimulate the body

Jasmine Yang — Tonic and relaxant, it generates a positive reaction in the mind, enhances self-confidence, helps to change the mood and increase spiritual well being

Wood of Life — This elevating, soft, uplifting and sweet woody scent has been used for thousands of years for attaining illumination of mind, awaking self-love

Oud Delight — Illuminates the mind and fortifies the power of thinking. Increase the sense of strength, bringing in tranquillity, increasing cerebral functioning and strengthening the nervous system.

Tudo Azul — The potion to put a smile on your face.

Neroli Wisdom — A relaxing potion.

Sesame Chān — A potion to provide a zen state of mind.

Anima Vinci Discovery Set £20

Perfumer Emmanuelle Moeglin first developed workshops for frag heads to create their own fragrances in her open-source lab – then went on to conjure the Experimental Perfume Club Discovery Set, so scent lovers can now mix, layer or personalise their own bespoke blends at home . Genius! If you have ever wanted to ‘tweak’ a scent or are intrigued by making something unique to you – this is the perfect starting point. Each fragrance can be worn alone, or layered (with guidance) to get something completely new for you. Featuring SIX NICHE FRAGRANCES to layer, explore and learn, what a great gift to yourself to emark on an exciting fragrant journey…

Bergamot / Incense – Top Layer – citrus and exotic spices are brought together in this bright fragrance with Eastern influence.

Fig / Neroli – Top Layer  – the crunch of fresh herbs in a Mediterranean garden in bloom.

Jasmine / Osmanthus – Mid Layer – a tribute to white flowers growing on hot sand. Radiant, floral and exotic.

Rose / Rhubarb – Mid Layer – imagine rose bushes growing from a rhubarb patch.

Amber / Iris – Base Layer – an amber wrapped in powdery notes; dark yet soft.

Sandalwood / Musk – Base Layer – mineral sandalwood met with leather and musks. Mineral, woody and addictive.

Experimental Perfume Club Discovery Set £25

 

 

Founder Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed created a stunning portfolio of perfumes reflecting her life-long love of fragrance – nurtured on travels through the Middle East with her inspirational grandmother. Created by renowned perfumer Carlos Benaïm, Amy’s collection – the Sana Jardin Discovery Set – offers sensuous, strong women-led scents with sustainability (currently a ‘buzzword’ in perfumery) at the heart of everything they do. We now invite you to delight your senses with the SEVEN very special fragrances in the line-up:

Savage Jasmine Night-blooming jasmine, wrapped around intoxicating musk. 

Sandalwood Temple Moroccan neroli oil, enveloped it in Atlas cedarwood, Haitian vetiver, creamy vanilla and East Indian sandalwood.

Tiger By Her Side Showcases Moroccan rose alongside Somalian incense and Indonesian patchouli.

Berber Blonde Filled with the light of Sana Jardin’s signature orange blossom, alongside Moroccan neroli oil and musk.

Celestial Patchouli Exotic aromas of patchouli, leather, cinnamon bark and Australian Sandalwood give way to the abundant warmth of rose, jasmine, osmanthus and Moroccan orris.

Nubian Musk A sensuously inviting blend of musk and vanilla, rose, jasmine, Moroccan grapefruit flower, Haitian vetiver and Australian sandalwood.

Revolution de la Fleur This is a sultry, sun-filled melody of Madagascan ylang ylang, Moroccan jasmine, frangipani, rose, vanilla and sandalwood.

Jaipur Chant Heady & Seductive Tuberose. Indian tuberose, the goddess of flowers, blooms in the still of night.

Sana Jardin Discovery Set £30

mNPA – China’s first niche perfumery awards

The passion for niche perfumes is growing worldwide, and fragrance houses have been telling us for some time that the Chinese market has been expanding. Once written off as only liking quiet or subdued scents, or outsiders assuming the majority of consumers don’t feel comfortable wearing personal scent at all, it’s fascinating to see that China have just held their first ever awards for niche perfumery: the mNPA

Set to become an annual event, the mNPA – Minorité Niche Perfumery Awards – is a collaboration between the niche Chinese fine fragrance and distribution company Minorité and Firmenich, the largest privately-owned fragrance and flavour company.

Minorité founder Song Yuan said ‘This is the first time we have held the awards for niche perfumes in China… We hope these awards will help Chinese consumers learn more about our local niche brands and inspire domestic perfumes.’ Paul Andersson, Firmenich China President, explained why China was the perfect setting for these awards. ‘Following the opening of our first Fine Fragrance Atelier in China in September last year, Firmenich’s participation in mNPA demonstrates our commitment to developing the fine fragrance industry in China. Firmenich is honored to support worldwide exposure for the outstanding fine fragrance players in China by leveraging our global network and our understanding of the local Chinese consumers and market.’

‘The awards encourage the creation of innovative fragrances with an artistic touch, based on a unique approach. The nomination jury included leading perfumers, senior fragrance critics and Key Opinion Leaders who were responsible for nominating the candidates and shortlisting the finalists for each award category. Winners were then chosen by public vote.’

And the winners were…

  • Best Independent Niche Perfumes 2019: Fig-Tea by Nicolaï; Hermann A Mes Cotes Me Paraissait Une Ombre by Etat Libre d`Orange; The Orchid Man by Frapin.
  • Best Niche Perfumes Affiliated with a Group 2019: Oolang Infini by Atelier Cologne; L`Ombre Dans L`Eau (EDT) by diptyque; Florabellio by diptyque.
  • Best Chinese Niche Perfume 2019: Insects Awaken by KONG BAI; Wind by UTTORI; Rosmanthus by O D’HORA.

 

 

These awards work both ways: showing the fragrances that are making significant scent waves in China while also showcasing home-grown Chinese niche houses that perhaps aren’t widely known about even in their own country. We applaud this initiative and would love to explore more truly niche fragrances from around the world, wouldn’t you? Anything that helps diversify our olfactive palate, and the voices and memories creating their own unique stories in scent, can only be a good thing.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Gwyneth Paltrow’s scent sensation

Never exactly bashful about courting controversy, Gwyneth Paltrow‘s, um, uniquely named candle has recently been stirring up quite the scented sensation…

Unless you have been hiding under a rock (or, perhaps, hiding the rocks inside of you), you have doubtless caught a whiff of something approaching hysteria (appropriate, given the etymology of the word), regarding a particular scented candle, supposedly inspired by a particular body part.

The renowned beauty and cosmetic world expert and commentator, George Ledes, perhaps put it the most diplomatically when he said he had to take his hat off to Gwyneth and her ‘er…unique candle, with a move right out of the Tom Ford “F***ing Fabulous” playbook’, whose Goop brand of lifestyle and wellness products has just been accepted in to the block-busting U.S. chain of Sephora stores. ‘Say what you will,’ says Ledes, ‘but to me it smells like money!’

Now, whatever your thoughts as to the current trend for ‘shocking’ naming conventions of fragranced products, you do, indeed, have to hand it to Paltrow and her £58 ‘This Smells Like My V****a’ [starred to protect those easily offended – Ed.] candle, because it sold out in record time. Those disappointed not to catch a whiff can be put on a waiting list.

 

 

 

So come on then, no more beating around the bush (um, so to speak), what does this notorious candle actually smell like? Well, I’ve not had my nose on it, either, but in case you were wondering, the Goop website proclaims it to be ‘a funny, gorgeous, sexy, and beautifully unexpected scent,’ featuring ‘geranium, citrusy bergamot, and cedar absolutes juxtaposed with Damask rose and ambrette seed,’ which we are told puts them in mind of ‘fantasy, seduction, and a sophisticated warmth.’

So now you know.

It’s not the first time Gwyneth and her downstairs lady parts have caused a media sensation, and doubtless wont be the last, for it seems that inspirational well has not yet run dry. And as Harpers Bazaar comment, ‘Regardless of what you think about Paltrow, she and her products are a talking point again, and her candle is a sell-out hit.’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

 

Fragrant reads we recommend: The Essence

Our bookshelf at The Perfume Society is ever-growing, and we couldn’t be more delighted to share some of our favourite Fragrant Reads with you. What could be more delightful on a cold, dreary winter’s day than curling up with a cuppa and a good book? From scholarly works to scent-inspired novels, books tracing the spice routes or dedicated to just one ingredient –  there’s a plethora of perfume-related books we recommend.

But this week we have our noses buried in…

The Essence: Discovering the World of Scent, Perfume & Fragrance, by gestalten

I must begin by declaring an interest, in that I was asked by the publishers to write all of the Fragrance Families pieces for this book. That doesn’t prevent me gasping in delight at the rest of the book, however (and there’s a lot of it to love – 288 pages in full color hardback, making this a coffee-table book to admire and dip in to many times).

Delving into ‘the history, culture, and science that have shaped the multi-billion dollar perfume industry into what it is today,’ The Essence has at its core a curiousity to discover why ‘fragrance has captivated us as humans for centuries.’ Not simply another book of historical facts and well-worn stories, this is a tome for those who want to go beyond the surface and explore the people behind the perfume industry. Yes we have the inevitable picking of lavender in the fields of Provence and the laboratories, but also those lesser-told stories (in mainstream publishing certainly) of incense producers in India and innovative, indie perfumers like Mandy Aftel and Lyn Harris (Perfumer H).

Written by a number of distinguished fragrance writers from around the world, you are invited to ‘Meet the trailblazers shaping the future of perfumery as we explore the vital role that technology and scented products will play in the 21st century.’ And when history is invoked, it’s done so in fascinating ways. One of my favourite sections was a double-page timeline tracing significant political and cultural events and showing the iconic fragrances that were launched against this backdrop. For novices, scholars, noses – anyone interested in fragrance, this is a book that manages to be both beautiful and brainy.

Publisher: gestalten

ISBN: 978-3-89955-255-3

At WHSmith

By Suzy Nightingale

Smell your way to wellness with Anima Vinci

Anima Vinci are a niche fragrance house with wellness at their core – not paying mere lip-service to a current trend, but building their scents around a central ethos of literally allowing yourself time to stop and smell the roses (and jasmine, Palo Santo, citrus, sesame seeds…)

With a background at the very first ‘niche’ perfumery house – and years at the creative helm of one of the UK’s most historic fragrance names – Nathalie Vinciguerra brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. But it’s her passion for authenticity and sustainability within the world of fragrance that finally drove her to create Anima Vinci. Starting her illustrious career in Paris at L’Oréal, over seven years, she ‘…acquired in-depth expertise in fragrance development and international launches.’

From 2006 until 2015, Nathalie was the Head of Fragrance Development for Penhaligon’s and L’Artisan Parfumeur – creating briefs and working directly with perfumers to create award-winning fragrances you’ll definitely have worn, including absolute classics like Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling. And it was Nathalie’s excellent working relationship with some of the best noses in the world that further prepared her for the massive leap in founding her own fragrance house, with a very particular aim in mind.

 

 

Nathalie genuinely believes in perfume’s power to uplift our senses, and to enhance our own ability to emotionally connect to our surroundings. ‘Anima Vinci is the creative expression of my strong belief in the power of fragrance,’ she says, ‘and the positive effect it can have on your heart, mind and spirit. I believe that scents have the power to immerse us in the universe’s energy and nature’s beauty.’

A devotee of yoga and meditation for over thirty years, Nathalie’s exuberantly expressed and enlightened concept can instantaneously be understood when actually smelling the beautiful bounty – with Rose Prana, for instance, you will find yourself fully immersed in the rose fields of Grasse, smelling the earth below the bushes abundant with fresh, almost raspberry-scented Rose de Mai blooms, and a sense of the sky above. Jasmine Ylang, meanwhile, is an altogether more exotic journey – symbolic of divine hope in India – opulence tempered with lucidity, sandalwood and frangipani, a holiday for the soul.

‘Scent is the most sensational of senses,’ Nathalie explains. ‘The world opens up before me. I’m taken back to my past and propelled towards my future. Timelessly I return to a specific place. Memories take me to my Eden. I enjoy every breath of the world and look forward defiantly. I create fragrances that encourage you to embrace life. All you have to do is breathe.’

 

 

For me, personally, the most immediately transportive fragrance in their collection is Wood of Life. Built around the remarkably calming ingredient palo santo (a wood prized for its cleansing and spiritual properties, and burned in many religious and meditative practices), I genuinely feel my shoulders drop an inch when I spray it. And it’s one of those fragrances that just makes you smile and breathe deeply – just as Nathalie describes. It’s so soothing, like wearing an invisible cloak of perfumed protection, and incredibly useful on days you just feel overwhelmed, at work, on the tube, in a stressful situation at home – wherever you are. A notorious insomniac for pretty much all my life, I sometimes wear this to bed. I’m not going to pretend it zonks me out immediately, but smelling it while breathing deeply has definitely helped slow my overactive mind a while – it brings stillness: a perfume to hit the pause button with.

I cannot recommend the Anima Vinci fragrances highly enough – each one has been carefully composed in a collaboration between Nathalie and some of the world’s foremost perfumers, names like Thomas Fontaine, Christian Provenzano, Randa Hammami, Fanny Bal, Beverley Bayne and Michel Roudnitska. Basically a who’s-who of the fragrance world, and an indication of Nathalie’s prowess for connecting and working with these noses she’s spent her entire career communicating with.

But which of the scents will communicate most deeply with you, I wonder? Perhaps it will depend what mood you’re in and how you want to address it on that day – and now, wonderfully, you are able to try the entire collection at home with the Anima Vinci Discovery Set. Try EIGHT fragrances for only £20, and get ready for some self-care with scents. How are you feeling…?

 

 

Lime Spirit — Lime acts as a stimulating tonic for the mind and body. Lime pacifies your mood and boost brain power. It is a powerful ancient remedy for cleansing the aura and restoring self-confidence

Rose Prana — It benefits the heart chakra that is responsible for love, spiritual wisdom and mental clarity. Influences the central nervous system, boosts self-confidence, self – esteem and positive feeling. Strengthens the aura and stimulate the body

Jasmine Yang — Tonic and relaxant, it generates a positive reaction in the mind, enhances self-confidence, helps to change the mood and increase spiritual well being

Wood of Life — This elevating, soft, uplifting and sweet woody scent has been used for thousands of years for attaining illumination of mind, awaking self-love

Oud Delight — Illuminates the mind and fortifies the power of thinking. Increase the sense of strength, bringing in tranquillity, increasing cerebral functioning and strengthening the nervous system.

Tudo Azul — The potion to put a smile on your face.

Neroli Wisdom — A relaxing potion.

Sesame Chān — A potion to provide a zen state of mind.

We may be in the depths of winter still, but soon the seasons will change, the green bugs will burst open again, the sunshine will return – and in the meantime, why not treat yourself to some moments of scented reflection and calm, to revive and uplift or simply put a smile on your face? Whichever Anima Vinci fragrance you choose to wear, they’ll really help carry you through.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Powder to the people: the many moods of iris

A rather unprepossessing looking root with a heavenly, suede-like aroma, iris is one of the most costly of fragrance ingredients – adored by perfumers for generations, but shaking off the unfair ‘grandma’s talcum powder’ reputation it perhaps once was cloaked by, now being championed by ultra-cool niche brands for a new era of purple passion.

Curiosity combined with ingenuity altered the history of perfume forever. Who exactly was the first person rootling around in the earth beneath the gloriously flowering iris, discovering the fleshy, creeping rootstocks (known as rhizomes) that look for all the world like the key ingredient in a fairytale’s curse, and pondering, “what if…?” Taking those roots, putting them in a cave to age further (the older iris rhizomes get, the more pungent they become), and grinding, distilling and extracting the essence, only then does it transform into the uniquely powdery, skin-like, sometimes almost bread dough-esque scent that lingers and clings low to the skin for hours.

Lauded for centuries as a symbol of majestic power, dedicated to the goddess Juno and revered by Egyptians who placed the flowers on the brows of the Sphinx and scepters of kings – the three petals of the blossom supposedly representing faith, wisdom and valor. In both ancient Greece and Rome, orris root was already highly valued in perfumery, with fragrant unguents of iris widely used in Macedonia, Elis and Corinth, for which they became famous.

Iris fragrances can smell as sweetly innocent as freshly laundered linen, or hint at the siren call of the boudoir – lipstick, powdered skin and silken underthings that gradually take on the body scent of the wearer. This is an ingredient you’ll long to snuggle in the bosom of, and once truly appreciated you’ll never want to be without – a new religion, a way of life… Okay, I’ll go and lie on the chaise lounge for a bit (iris always makes me want to drape myself on plush furnishings, anyway).

I could wax lyrical about its myriad charms all day (and often do, to the delight of my friends), but I want you to go out and allow yourself to be enraptured by some of these suggestions. Join my iris cult  swathe yourself in one of these scents, showcasing the many moods of Iris

 

 

Refined Iris:

Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile eau de parfum – High society swanker subtly wearing amber necklace and oakmoss Chypre fur coat (with silk knickers).

Ormonde Jayne Vanille d’Iris eau de parfum – A rope of creamy pearls knotted over see-through silk blouse, delicately skin-warm from décolleté’s touch.

Prada Infusion d’Iris eau de parfum – Immaculate white shirt line-dried in Spring, crisp sheets on bare skin: the allure of clean linen waiting to be sullied.

Xerjoff Irisss eau de parfum Warm bread roll joyously ripped asunder and secretly slathered with butter; face re-powdered, pink pout re-applied.

Serge Lutens Bas de Soie – Chaste kiss from cool blonde of the Hitchcock ilk, wearing lipstick too expensive to smudge on plebs and silk stockings you’ll never see.

 

 

Romantic Iris:

4160 Tuesdays Paradox eau de parfum – Thunderously moody walk in a storm; wrapped in cashmere stole sucking violet pastilles on a comfy sofa, temper’s becalmed.

E Coudray Iris Rose eau de toilette – A silk wedding dress on a velvet hanger, lovingly stroked by thoughtful bride-to-be at a vintage fair. Loved again.

Huitieme Art Parfums Naiviris eau de parfum – Searingly hot love letters liberally dusted with rice powder, sealed with red wax, smuggled in the spicy cargo of a ship’s belly.

Penhalligon’s Iris Prima eau de parfum – Ballerina’s farewell performance, a lithe curtsey as the curtain drops, feathers scatter the stage, tears of joy mingled with makeup.

Aerin Iris Meadow eau de parfum – Expensive bouquet tied with silk ribbons, nestled in a jam-jar on a bedroom window-sill, the handwritten card beckoning smiles.

 

 

Bohemian Iris:

Atelier Cologne Silver Iris Cologne absolue – A purple velvet gypsy-style skirt’s hem dampened by dew, pale wrists loaded with bangles, reaching for blackberries on a misty morning.

L’artisan Parfumeur Dzongkha eau de parfum – Temple stones cool beneath bare feet, chai tea sipped on a verdant mountain’s terrace, distant bells deeply resonating.

Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Iris Bleu Gris eau de parfum – Freshly laundered sheets cannot hide the masculine scent of a Dandy’s midnight visit, still lingering in the sunlit room.

Sentifique Dangereuse eau de parfum – Chanteuse shuns cold weather, languidly stretching golden limbs on tropical sun-lounger, coconut ice cream drips on hot skin.

Vancleef & Arpels Bois d’Iris eau de parfum – Free spirits chasing rainbows, lovers of lemon sorbets, cashmere stoles & black tea sipped from vintage china cups.

 

 

Bad-gal Iris:

Etat Libre d’Orange Bendelirious eau de parfum – Wild child starlet swigging Champagne while chewing cherry-flavoured gum, emerging chaotically from rock gig’s dry ice.

Parfumerie Générale Private Collection Cuir d’Iris eau de parfum – Leather-bound prayer book stolen from church, smeared with face powder fingerprints. Chocolate-covered illicit kisses confessed.

Juliette Has a Gun Citizen Queen eau de parfum – Ms. Capulet rescues herself from tragedy by ignoring poison, a flirty heroine in floral basque and leather jeans.

Miller Harris Terre d’Iris eau de parfum – Hidden doorway leads to secret library, furtive fumblings among dusty tomes, her husband’s brother a better lover.

Frederic Malle Iris Poudre eau de parfum – Smiling seductress imbued with moral turpitude, impatiently tapping manicured fingernails on glass-topped cocktail cabinet.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

This fragrance is the bee’s knees – literally!

Scientists have discovered that certain types of bees actually create their own ‘perfumes’ in order to attract a mate. And what’s more, a niche brand has just launched a Bee fragrance that’s already creating a buzz…

A new article in Science Daily reveals that scientists at the University of California have discovered male orchid bees don’t sipmply flit among the flowers collecting pollen to make honey back at the hive – they’re also using their wings ‘…to disperse a bouquet of perfumes into the air.’ And their studies have concluded that ‘the aromatic efforts are all for the sake of attracting a mate.’

Associate Professor Santiago Ramirez, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, explained that while they already knew many animals produce pheremones, the unique factor for the orchid bee is that ‘the majority of their pheromones are actually collected from plants and other sources like fungi.’ Science Daily suggests that ‘Orchid bees are master perfumers,’ and goes on to explain that the scientists reserach suggests that ‘the perfumes males concoct are unique to their specific species’.

Ramirez,and recent Ph.D. graduate student Philipp Brand, from the Population Biology Graduate Group, have been studying the mating habits of orchid bees for some years, in the course of their studies, ‘unraveling the complex chemicals responsible for successful procreation.’ What they didn’t expext to find, though, was a brand new discovery that possibly explains the evolutionary divergence of bee species: environmental perfumes (and we’re not talking ‘clean’ or ‘green’ beauty claims here, folks!)

In the study, which was first published in Nature Communications, Brand, Ramirez and their colleagues set out their case to suggest that the evolution of sexual signaling in orchid bees can directly be linked to ‘a gene that’s been shaped by each species’ perfume preferences.’

Brand commented that, ‘Our study supports the hypothesis that in the orchid bee perfume communication system, the male perfume chemistry and the female preference for the perfume chemistry can simultaneously evolve via changes in a single receptor gene.’ And this could explain why a single species split into two distinct species that we knew were linked, but had no idea why they had diverged. Ah yes, the power of that scent sillage is strong, it seems, even for bees. But how did one bee’s perfume-making prowess suddenly woo more of the female bees to his partiular, er, honeypot?

 

Green Orchid Bee

 

Explains Ramirez: ‘Imagine you have an ancestral species that uses certain compounds to communicate with each other,” said Ramirez. “If you have a chemical communication channel and then that chemical communication channel splits into two separate channels, then you have the opportunity for the formation of two separate species.’

Do make time to read the full article in Science Daily – it’s a fascingating read, and yet another notch in our understanding of the power of smell. But let’s not only focus on fragrances that makes bees feel like getting busy (buzzy?) with it; we perfume-loving humans have a brand new sweet-smelling scent to explore that’s perfectly themed – and although not inspired by the reasearch, as far as we know, happens to be perfectly timed, too. The Canadian-based niche house of Zoologist have just launched the latest in their animal-centric scents: behold Bee

Perfumer Cristiano Canali has created a perfume that showcases luxurious amounts of labdanum, dollops of honey, a leathery orange blossom dusted with powdery mimosa, delciously rounded by nutty tonka and heady heliotrope.

Zoologist Bee, £195 for 65ml extrait de parfum (1ml samples £3)
Try it at Bloom Perfumery

So which honey-based fragrances are likely to get you buzzing? Read our page all about the history and use of honey as a fragrant ingredient, and discover other perfumes to try, for the scent perfumer Christine Nagel describes as ‘half devil, half angel…’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Juliette Has a Gun founder, Romano Ricci, reveals his five favourite smells…

Romano Ricci – founder of niche perfume house Juliette Has a Gun – was born to be creative, with roots in both fashion (his great grandmother was renowned couturier Nina Ricci) and perfumery (his grandfather Robert created the famous L’air du temps); but though grateful to his heritage, Romano was driven to make a name for himself and learn the basics for himself rather than resting on his laurels and hoping the prestige of the family name would carry him through.

Romano became an apprentice in the perfumery world, studying for four years and learning from the greatest noses, eventually persuading Francis Kurkdjian – a master of perfumery – to allow him to work with him. Juliette Has a Gun say: ‘In the creator’s mind, the innocent Juliet of Shakespeare is transposed to the 21st century with a gun… Metaphor for the perfume, weapon of seduction, or simple accessory of bluff, the “Gun” essentially symbolizes the liberation of women towards men…and sometimes with an aftertaste of revenge…’

Wryly humorous names like Another Oud, Mad Madame, Not a Perfume and Anyway, along with intriguing blends of notes are the hallmark of Juliette Has a Gun – a house that pays no regard to the traditional way of doing things just for the sake of it, but creating some truly great perfumes that have been blowing the socks off press and public alike since their launch in 2006.

And we are thrilled to now stock the JHAG Discovery Kit in our shop – filled with EIGHT NICHE FRAGRANCES, including a 4ml Not A Perfume, so you can explore layering all of these wonderful fragrances at your leisure (and pleasure). We think this kit creates a WONDERFUL GIFT and is perfect for when you are on the go. All yours to explore and treasure for only £25.

 

But before we wonder what your favourite smells of their Discovery Kit will be, we caught up with the stylish maverick Romano, and once cornered, got him to reveal the smells he just cannot do without in his life. What, we wondered, makes his nostrils quiver with delight?

Romano Ricci: My five favourite smells…

1. Tomato leaves ‘There is something about it. Without any explanation, I am just totally attracted and addicted to this poisoning green smell…’

2. Cetalox ‘This is one of my favorite ingredients, I even created a fragrance [NB: it’s called Not a Perfume] made 100% of it. I love the fact that some people can smell it and others cannot. It is the beauty of this pure ingredient.’

3. Castor Oil Plant ‘It reminds me my passion – car racing. Whenever I enter the garage of my racing team, I smell this odour which immediately puts me in a racing mood.’

4. Lavender ‘As a child we used to spend our vacations in our summer house in Grasse. It was called “la Renardiere”  and I loved it very much. It was surrounded by lavender fields. You could smell it all over the place. I should mention, though, that I kind of had a bad experience with the bees! So, it has a bad side to it too…’

5. Play-Doh ‘I used to love the smell of it as a child and still do, I am deeply jealous of perfumers like Demeter for instance, who created a fragrance around it!’

All that jazz: 1920s fragrances still available (and so wearable) today

2020 is a date that still feels weird to write down, no? It seems strangely sci-fi, while inevitably tempting writers [hello] to hark back to the ‘Roaring Twenties’ of the last century. Nostalgia abounds in fashion and fragrance, too – classic notes making a comeback, with violet and lavender looking to top the trends of the year, but before we get ahead of ourselves, I wanted to take this opportunity to look back to some iconic – and at the time even scandalous – fragrances first launched in the 1920s and still available (and so wearable) today.

In her wonderfully evocative book, Flappers, author Judith Mackrell explains the explosion of beauty and fashion items suddenly marketed at women to buy for themselves. ‘Within the competetive climate of post-war capitalism the new fun-seeking flapper with her dyed hair, bee-stung lips and Charleston frocks was proving to be a wonderful opportunity for business.’ The number of women independently earning money had risen by an incredible 500% and these women, hungry for newness, ‘were opening up a lucrative market for the beauty and fashion industries.’

 

 

So it’s no wonder many of the fragrances we now regard as ‘classics’ were born in this era of unrestrained excitement and optimism. Mackrell recounts one story of a fourteen year old girl in Chicago who tried to gas herself, because ‘other girls in her class rolled their stockings, had their hair bobbed and called themselves flappers, and she alone was refused permission by her parents.’ Such was the allure of this newly self-expressed freedom – working women had developed a new self-confidence, and many women were grabbing every opportunity to shock social conventions, through raising their hemlines, plunging necklines, chopping off their hair, flagrantly smoking cigarettes in public and dousing themselves in heady scents that wafted the spirit of audacity.

While many vintage fragrances smell distinctly of their time, the ones from the 1920s somehow seem ahead of their era, and so we can still wear and enjoy them without feeling as though we’re off to a fancy dress party. I cannot urge you enough to seek these five out and give them a try – or to revisit if you once wore and loved them, but have been a thoroughly modern Millie ever since. C’mon, let’s ‘rouge our knees and roll our stockings down. And all that jazz’…

Chanel No.5 – launched 1921
Coco Chanel wanted to launch a scent for the new, modern woman she embodied. She loved the scent of soap and freshly-scrubbed skin; Chanel’s mother was a laundrywoman and market stall-holder, though when she died, the young Gabrielle was sent to live with Cistercian nuns at Aubazine. When it came to creating her signature scent, though, freshness was all-important. While holidaying with her lover, Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich, she heard tell of a Grasse-based perfumer called Ernest Beaux, who’d been the perfumer darling of the Russian royal family. Over several months, he produced a series of 10 samples to show to ‘Mademoiselle’. They were numbered one to five, and 20 to 24. She picked No. 5 – and yes, the rest is history.

Why it’s still wearable:
After that infamous Champagne-like aldehydic rush, notes of jasmine, rose, vanilla and sandalwood calm the froth, but it still smells incredibly ‘abstract’ with no dominant note the wearer can really make out. It’s timeless, clean but sexy in a so-French way. Perhaps this will be the year you succumb to its charms?

 

Chanel No.5 from £57 for 35ml eau de parfum, chanel.com

Molinard Habanita – launched 1921
Molinard say that Habanita was the first women’s fragrance to strongly feature vetiver as an ingredient – something hitherto reserved for men, commenting that ‘Habanita’s innovative style was eagerly embraced by the garçonnes – France’s flappers – and soon became Molinard’s runaway success and an icon in the history of French perfume.’ Originaly conceived as a scent for cigarettes – inserted via glass rods or to sprinkle from a sachet – women had begun sprinkling themselves with it instead, and Molinard eventually released it as a personal fragrance.

Why it’s still wearable:
Honeyed tobacco notes and the aforementioned vetiver along with a supremely supple leather manage to distinctly butch up the orange blossom and fruits of the opening, with a floral heart that further ruffles the feathers of gender stereotypes – jasmine and heliotrope saucily winking atop a softly powdered amber base. Truly delightful and thrillingly illicit, it’s a crime not to have tried this at least once in your life, no matter your gender.

 

Molinard Habanita £48 for 30ml eau de parfum cologneandcotton.com

Lanvin Arpège – launched 1924
Jeanne Lanvin was a contemporary of Chanel’s, and – like her – began as a milliner and seamstress, founding her own millinery fashion house at Rue du Marché Saint-Honoré. Lanvin’s daughter was her inspiration for the fragrance Arpège.It was conceived for the 30th birthday of her daughter Marie-Blanche, and took its musical reference name from a comment Marie-Blanche made on being shown the first sample, created by perfumers André Fraysse and Paul Vacher: ‘It smells like an arpeggio would’. The spherical black-and-gold bottle was a nod to their love, too, with its silhouette of a mother dressing her daughter (designed by Paul Iribe) is still so recognisable – and covetable – today.

Why it’s still wearable:
A melody of florals – rose, iris, lily, lily of the valley, jasmine, ylang ylang , camellia and geranium – the lasting impression is of being wrapped in warm, white, fluffy towels, a veritable hug in a bottle. As blogger The Candy Perfume Boy observes: The truth is that Arpège has aged rather well and its supple aldehydic floral tones feel strikingly genderless today, making for a throwback floral that would feel perfectly comfortable on any perfume lover (male or female) who may be looking for something with a bit of a vintage edge.’

 

Lanvin Arpège £29.99 for 100ml eau de parfum theperfumeshop.com

Guerlain Shalimar  – first launched 1921, re-launched 1925
The Champs-Élysées-based perfume house had continued their tradition of launching rich, sumptous fragrances with this now legendary perfume from Jacques Guerlain, complete with lashings of the newly-popular synthetic vanillin. (It prompted Ernest Beaux himself to comment: ‘When I do vanilla, I get crème Anglaise; when Guerlain does it, he gets Shalimar!’) Said to be inspired by the Shalimar Gardens in Srinagar, part of which was laid out by the lovesick Emperor Shah Jehan, in 1619, for the delight of his wife Mumtaz Mahal (meaning ‘Jewel of the Palace’). When she died in childbirth, three years after Shah Jehan took the throne, he build the Taj Mahal in her honour, in Agra. Re-launched in 1925 at the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts, it harkened to a growing passion for romanticised exoticism in fashion, home decor and fragrance.

Why it’s still wearable:
Oodles of uplifting lemon and bergamot are swirled with night-blooming flowers of heliotrope and jasmine and iris over other famously velvety base notes, including patchouli, benzoin, ambergris, tonka bean, incense, vetiver, sandalwood and musk. Jacques passed that love on to his great-grandson Jean-Paul Guerlain, who’s said:  ‘He taught me how to love vanilla, as it adds something wonderfully erotic to a perfume. It turned Shalimar into an evening gown with an outrageously plunging neckline.’ To wear it, at any time, is to add some serious va-va-voom to your presence.

 

Guerlain Shalimar £79 for 50ml eau de parfum selfridges.com

Coty L’aimant – launched 1927
First created by Master Perfumer François Coty in 1927, apparently inspired by the love of his life, Coty L’Aimant (meaning ‘magnet’ in French) has remained popular through the decades for its distinctive, timeless and delicate fragrance combining rose, orchid and golden jasmin softly embraced with sandalwood and vanilla. Fragrance Blogger Sam from I Scent You a Day describes L’aimant as ‘peachy and soapy, with the neroli providing a hint of heady white flowers,’ with ‘a creamy and warm finish and a flourish of powder puff.’

Why it’s still wearable:
It definitely smells delightfully retro, but somehow those aldehydes just keep on fizzing through the ages and refuse to become fusty. As Sam comments, ‘What never ceases to amaze me is that a long lasting perfume of this calibre can still be had for a song,’ while lamenting that ‘It’s a perfume that I would love to smell more people wearing.’ And for that price, you cannot go wrong. Let’s say it’s not quite you… simply spray all your writing paper (or the boudoir curtains) with it – fabulous, dah-ling!

 

Coty L’aimant £7.09 for 15ml parfum de toilette boots.com

At the time of writing, half the world seems to be on fire or flooding, and the political climate remains turbulent, so it’s hardly surprising increasing numbers of fragrance lovers are turning toward retro smells with misty eyes. But they don’t all have to be whimsical museum pieces, as these definitely wearable scents certainly prove. We’d love to see more men exploring what used to be considered ‘female’ fragrances, too – fragrant ingredients do not have a gender, and these should be worn by bright young (or older) things again, as we head into the 2020s, stockings rolled down or otherwise…

Written by Suzy Nightingale