Straight to the (pulse) point: the scent of pencil shavings & ‘back to school’ nostalgia

To get straight to the point (I’m not even sorry) the scent of pencil shavings is often cited as one of the most-loved nostalgic smells. One whiff can transport us to nostalgic reveries of childhood, and the giddy ‘back to school’ excitement of buying a new pencil case and assorted accessories.

‘In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.’
Vincent Van Gogh: letter 136, 24 September 1880.

So which pencil did Van Gogh for? He reportedly favoured a carpenter’s pencil for his intial sketches, at first, but later came to prefer a Faber pencil, writing to his brother that ‘They’re soft and better quality than the carpenter’s pencils, produce a marvellous black and are very agreeable to work with for large studies.’

Pencils matter very much to the writers, artists, creative thinkers, list-makers and stationery nerds among us. Because, no matter our actual experiences of school – gilded, halcyon days for some, unsettling and full of trepidation for others – that scent just takes us right back; and in a perfumer’s hands, can evoke a kind of olfactory optimism.

The pencil as we know it today was invented in 1795 by Nicholas-Jacques Conte, a scientist serving in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. Previously, pure carbon (what we call graphite) was wrapped in material or used on its own for mark-making. When it was first discovered, carbon was mistakenly believed to be lead, and, as the always excellent brainpickings.com informs us, ‘…was called ‘plumbago’ or black lead (hence the ‘plumbers’ who mend our lead water-carrying pipes), a misnomer that still echoes in our talk of pencil “leads”.’

Most often, we hear people sniffing cedar-rich fragrances ahhh-ing blissfully and saying ‘pencil shavings!’ when asked what they’re smelling. And there’s a good reason for that. As wood-database.com tells us (there really is a website for everything, isn’t there?): cedarwood ‘is the primary material for wooden pencils, because it is soft and tends to sharpen easily without forming splinters.’

 

 

Perfumers love cedar for its smooth, dry resilience, and its ability to play well with so many ingredients. It smells woody, obvs, but that’s just too simple: it also has a freshness, with hints of resin. If you’ve ever walked in a lush, evergreen forest, cedar will whisk you back there, as well as the schoolroom. It’s mostly the foliage (from trees grown in the Atlas mountains of Morocco, or Virginia in the USA), then steam-distilled to produce the intense oil, which is also used in aromatherapy for calming and balancing.

 

 

The artistry of precise pencil sharpening is not to be ignored, either. David Rees enjoyed it so much that he wrote a book on How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening, and he was so good at it, he took to being paid to sharpen other people’s pencils. Though the demand has been so great, Rees has since stated he has ‘effectively retired’ – now charging up to $500 for his services, so that ‘…I don’t know if I’m technically retiring, or just raising my prices so high that I assume I will never have another customer.’

Many fragrances wishing to evoke the schoolroom must also find a way to incorporate the slightly metallic aroma of graphite – along with the cedar, wood polish and other, more abstract smells that somehow represent a sense of naivety, a yearning for a chance to start again, captured in a bottle.

Some smells associated with school are best left out of a fine fragrance – overcooked cabbage, damp mops and sawdust covering various effluvia sping to mind; but these fragranced products and personal scents are cleverly composed to provide a highly refined – and sometimes welcomingly whimsical – time-travel trip for your nose…

Noted pencil-makers Caran d’Ache have collaborated with perfumer Alberto Morillas‘ fragrance house, Mizensir, to create pencils infused with the scent, Alps Spirit. The set of four graphite pencils ‘carved from fine woods and manufactured entirely in Geneva will transport artists to the opulent Alpine region’ via foresty patchouli, musk and nutmeg and a background glow of subtle orange, to recreate ‘…the sensation of watching the awe-inspiring sunrise over the Alpine peaks.’


Caran d’Ache + Mizensir Pencils No.9 £35
carandache.com

 

A novel take on the traditional reed diffuser, here Hindmarch uses ceramic pencils to draw up the scent and diffuse it into the room. The Pencil Shavings’ scent is satisfyingly dry and woody, with the cedar punctuated by mandarin, pink pepper, rose, cypress and a surrealistically realistic accord of ‘novelty erasers and fresh notebooks.’ Adding quirkiness and humour to a WFH (Working From Home) desk, the expression definitely matches my own on many a day.

Anya Hindmarch Pencil Shavings Diffuser £99
anyahindmarch.com

 

Drawing a huge number of fans, this classic cedar-rich fragrance from 2008 is the daddy of pencil-shaving scents, if you like, for those seeking a hit of nostalgia. Apart from the reassuringly long-wearing drydown of cedar swirling with sweet tobacco and supple leather (the teacher’s study, maybe?) bright shards of bergamot and leafy violet atop loamy patchouli beckon lunchtime walks in the woods.

Gucci Pour Homme £56 for 50ml eau de toilette
theperfumeshop.com

 

A perfumed portrait that Byredo describe as ‘A modern scent reduced to the essential,’ those seeking simplicity will sigh at the shade of Virginian cedarwood and cool Haitian vetiver, with a scatter of rose petals and silky musk in the base. Deliberately reminiscent of pencil shavings, it will immediately evoke ‘…a sense of nostalgia for school days and simpler times.’

Byredo Super Cedar £115 for 50ml eau de parfum
byredo.com

 

A scent memory etched in time, there are wafts of old wooden school desks, pencil shavings and chalk dust – the gentle scratching sound of charcoal on paper as young artists draw their dreams. Memories are played out in hints of lemon and earthy angelica root, a joyful giggle of cocoa, geranium and the sheen of freshly waxed floors reflecting in the comfort of the cedar base. It feels like wearing the pages of Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers – she said, dating herself – or any school-set book series involving cosy intrigue, pillow fights and the alluring promise of midnight feasts.

MiN New York Old School Bench
harrods.com

 

Book nerds need to check out this fine art fragrance collaboration between Rory Sparks of the Working Library and artist and writer, Catherine Haley Epstein. ‘A collaboration combining a love for scents and pencils – a one of a kind homage to a favorite studio tool,’ this limited edition has that freshly shaved woody hit and the metallic hint of graphite illuminated by citrus. The Midi Set includes 7.5 ml of the handcrafted fragrance, a pencil with a custom message, and a letterpress insert.

Rory Sparks + Catherine Haley Epstein No.2 Midi Set $50
catherinehaleyepstein.com

 

I’ll leave the pun to perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, here, as she asks ‘Isn’t there something romantic about pencils? The old school kind (get it?)’ Fully fledged daydreams abound in the interplay of Atlas and Texas cedarwood amidst a hazy drift of choya ral (the smoky, leathery balsam made from the burnt resin of the Indian Shorea robusta tree) and dusty motes of oakmoss dancing in the distilled sunlight of petitgrain. Hurwitz excels at making natural fragrances slowly reveal their wonders in a way that’s astoundingly nuanced yet so delicately handled.

DSH Perfumes No.2 Pencil Shavings
dshperfumes.com

 

Although not a cedar fragrance, I simply couldn’t leave out the tender image so beautfully transcribed in scent by Memoize – a melange of memories that tumble through layers of rose, burnished leather and the smell of distant bonfire smoke in the air, conjured by the oudh wood in the dry down. Created to inspire feelings of self-confidence and self-worth (something we could all do with a dose of right now), they describe the fragrant vision ‘Recalling a first day of school, the pruned rose bushes, games in the woods, the leather strap of a satchel, a mother’s proudest moment…’


Memoize London Superbia £177 for 100ml eau de parfum
memoizeperfume.com

I’m fully aware that the notion of ‘back to school’ doesn’t represent an unsullied pleasure for many of us – either our own memories or the particular concerns surrounding students returning to classrooms this year, in the continuing fallout of a global pandemic. But much as learning the art of lucid dreaming can transform a nightmare into an adventure; the wonderful thing about fragrance is that we can use it to shape our own recollections, to create new scent memories. And there’s no doubt, that cedar-y smell of pencil shavings – whether deliverved via a perfume, home fragrance or an actual pencil imbued with the scent itself – speaks of simpler times, of hopes and dreams, the blank pages of life yet to be filled.

Or, as Catherine Haley Epstein so beautifully puts it: ‘the ideas of freedom, focus and unlimited possibilities in the head.’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Forgotten flowers: lily of the valley _ a fascinating history + why perfumers love it, now!

We’ve been focussing on those ‘forgotten flowers’ in perfumery, perhaps seen as a little old fashioned once, but which are re-blooming once again…

Last time we looked at freesia, and in the most recent edition of The Scented Letter Magazine, we invited you to Step Into the Garden with the main feature dedicated to re-exploring roses, magolias, violets, peonies and osmanthus. But today, we’d like to tempt you to try: lily of the valley.

Regarded as a lucky charm ever since its first introduction from Japan to Europe in the Middle Ages, lily of the valley has become synonymous with the month of May and ‘the return of happiness’. For the French, May 1st traditionally represents the start of gifting bouquets of “muguet” to loved ones to signify the regard in which they’re held and as a token of prosperity for the year ahead. A tradition supposedly begun when King Charles IX was presented with a bunch of the delicate blooms, and decided to gift the ladies of his court, too.

In Europe, ‘bals de muguet’ were historically held – lily of the valley themed dances that offered the tantalising prospect for young singletons to meet without their parents’ permission.

An iconic (and ultra-chic) lily of valley fragrance was the original Dior Diorissimo, designed in 1956 by Edmond Roudnitska. Composed in homage to Christian Dior’s favorite flowe, the lily of the valley was to be found on his personal stationary, jacklet lapels, printed on his fashion designs, and, on one occasion, inspired his entire 1954 spring collection.

A more recent icon is Penhaligon’s Lily of the Valley, which was launched in 1976 – tapping into the fashion trend for romantic nostalgia – and which is wonderfully described as ‘Lacey leaves. Dappled light. Green, clean, wholesome. Lily of the Valley is as fresh and optimistic as the morning dew, grounded by notes of bergamot and sandalwood.’

With the young gals dressed in white gowns and the dapper chaps at those historic bals wearing lily of the valley as a buttonhole, we’re sure there was many a ‘return to happiness’ on such evenings… Now the custom is tied in with France’s Labour Day public holiday, and the tradition of giving lily of the valley to loved ones during May still holds strong.

But perfumers love using this elusive scent all-year ’round, and we’ve seen an increasing number of fragrances using lily of the valley once again.

lily of the valley Victorian card

Lily of the valley has also made its way into countless bridal bouquets (including that of Kate Middleton for her wedding to Prince Willliam);  in many countries, it’s linked to this day with tenderness, love, faith, happiness and purity.

No wonder we chose this delightful, flower-filled date in the calendar to launch The Perfume Society – running hither and thither all over London handing sprigs of lily of the valley to fragrant friends!

So what does lily of the valley smell like?

Almost spicy, so green and sweet, with crisp hints of lemon: that’s lily of the valley. The flowers themselves are really mean with their oil, though, and synthetics are more often used to recreate lily of the valley’s magic:  Lilial, Lyral and hydroxycitronellal are among them.

lily of the valley poem

Far from reserving this magical note for May, or thinking that it has to be ‘old-fashioned’ smelling in a scent, we love the way perfumers use lily of the valley to ‘open up’ and freshen the other floral notes in a blend. It can smell like a woodland walk just after a rainshower (so very apropos for our weather right now, in the U.K.) or add some gentle sparkles of sunlight amid more verdant or deeper, shady phases as a scent unfurls on your skin.

Try these five fragrances in which lily of the valley is resplendent, and discover why we love this note so much…

lily of the valley perfumes Imperial Emerald

Perfumer Jordi Fernandez’s exquisite layering of iris, lily of the valley and Egyptian jasmine over a hazy layer of musks, is designed to conjure up the scent of an Italian stately garden, the sun setting and the hedgerows scenting the alleyways.
Merchant of Venice Imperial Emerald £250 for 100ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

Oh, this is a crisp stroll, bottled. Pears, bergamots and black currants drip onto aqueous blooms, sunlit lily of the valley and dewy roses, with musks softening a woody trail. Close your eyes and dream of spring already.
Maison Margiela Springtime In a Park £98 for 100ml eaux de toilette
harveynichols.com

Lily of the valley adds a weightless airiness that manages to be discreet, mysterious and sexy all at the same time. Infused with the signature musk, it sighs to a heart of roses, the dry-down a vibrant hum of black cedar, white cedar and tonka bean.
Narciso Rodriguez Eau de Toilette Rouge From £41 for 30ml eau de toilette
debenhams.com

This gauzy tapestry of petals feels like wearing a tulle gown sprinkled with sequins. Jasmine and rose are laced through with bright violet leaf and a shivering flurry of lily of the valley; while ribbons of white musk and ambergris weave through succulent papaya.
Goldea Blossom Delight £74 for 100ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

Cast off any grey clouds with this delightful zing of a scent – the lily of the valley’s so crisp in here it practically makes your mouth water. Twisting with tendrils of honekysuckle and grounded on a base of akigalawood and transparent patchouli, it’s a winner no matter the weather.
Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue from £50 for 30ml eau de parfum
johnlewis.com

By Suzy Nightingale

PERFECT Marc Jacobs global online launch party: YOU’RE invited!

PERFECT Marc Jacobs is having a global online launch party this coming Wednesday (August 26th 2020) – and YOU’RE invited! Find out how to register and watch the Perfect-ly gorgeous trailer, below…

Marc Jacobs Fragrances are to host the brand’s first-ever virtual launch party to celebrate its newest fragrance, PERFECT Marc Jacobs. Not due to be released nationwide in the U.K. until 9th September, this is your ‘PERFECT’ opportunity to get a sneak pre-launch peek at this major new fragrance – AND you’ll actually be able to purchase PERFECT Marc Jacobs from The Perfume Shop online from tomorrow, too!

And here’s a look at their brand-new ad campaign…

This global interactive event will offer an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into the world of PERFECT, and feature exciting customized experiences for unique content capture opportunities.

Guests will also be invited to learn about the inspiration behind PERFECT from Marc Jacobs himself and tune into a live Q&A with campaign cast members.

Marc Jacobs tell us that the interactive activities will include: a 1:1 photoshoot with Hunter Abrams, live portrait drawing from PERFECT illustrator Jacky Blue, personalised poetry from The Bumbys, a party room hosted by top drag performer Shangela, and many more surprising moments and giveaways.

To kick-off the party, global sensation and top recording artist, Kim Petras will join for an exclusive live performance.

To participate, guests can pre-register through the dedicated Eventbrite page, where they will be provided a special Zoom link for event access.

Those who sign up in advance will receive a sitewide 10%-off code for MarcJacobs.com, valid through September 30, 2020.

When:
Date: Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Event Time: 3:30 – 8:15 PM EST
Kim Petras Live Performance: 3:45 PM EST

Why: ‘To introduce the world to the new PERFECT MARC JACOBS fragrance and create a unique digital experience for fans of the brand all over the world to enjoy. A celebration of self-love and authenticity, PERFECT is inspired by Marc Jacobs’ mantra: ‘I am perfect as I am’, which is immortalised by a tattoo of the word ‘PERFECT’ on his wrist.’

Get those social media hashtags ready: #PerfectAsIAm #MJPerfect
marcjacobsfragrances.com
instagram.com/marcjacobsfragrances
facebook.com/marcjacobsfragrances

Reported by Suzy Nightingale

What’s fragrance shopping in ‘the new normal’ like? Part One…

What’s fragrance shopping in ‘the new normal‘ like right now?

If – like us – you’ve been a touch cautious about returning to the high street to shop for fragrance in an actual store, we’ve some reassuring news: Our roving reporter (and co-founder of We Wear Perfume) Amanda Carr, visited central London this week and found it was not just safe, but surprisingly enjoyable…

‘Sat on an empty tube, masked-up and slightly anxious is not how I usually approach fragrance shopping, but this pandemic has turned everything upside down. What would my first foray into scent stores be like? How would I inhale fragrance through my home-made, Liberty print face mask? I clutched my portable hand sanitiser – Perfumer H, Orange Leaf Hand First Aid, since you’re asking – and nervously headed out.

My first stop was Les Senteurs in stylish Elizabeth Street, and there’s a polite notice on the door explaining the ‘two guest’ policy for socially distanced shopping. Using the hand sanitiser as you enter is a must and masks must be worn, but your nose can peek out to allow you to inhale. All done, according to manager Clair Wills, to keep you safe while sniffing.

But oh what a joy to be back in a store!

 

 

On the central display was the newly launched Tauer fragrance Phtaloblue, exclusive to Les Senteurs. Trying it felt like a reward for just being there, as a new Andy Tauer fragrance is always a treat, Phtaloblue is like a cool, sea breeze, lightly tinged with orange blossom and geranium, with smudges of herby notes as if you were on a cliffside walk.

Although closed during the pandemic, Les Senteurs has remained busy selling fragrance from its website due partly, Clair claims, to the weekly e-newsletter the store continued to send out and its free-post service. ‘I think people slowed down a lot during lockdown and had time to properly read about and consider the fragrances we featured,’ she told us. ‘We do a good tester services so customers had the time to order samples and consider them at home, then they treated themselves.’

 

 

Store visitors experience a similarly ‘slowed down’ shopping experience, I had the store to myself, since foot traffic in the area is still low, and the staff seemed delighted to see a real-life customer, so it all felt quite special. I browsed happily through fragrances from Cloon Keen, a charming Irish brand I’d been meaning to properly try, again exclusive to Les Senteurs, including the delicious new tuberose-heavy candle Étaín candle. I almost didn’t want to leave.

But with a new skip in my step, I continued my tour, including a brief trip across the road to the wonderfully air conditioned Jo Loves, where it’s business as usual, albeit it at a masked-up and quieter pace, and where I caught an energising spritz of the new Mango Thai Lime fragrance, another winner during the heat.

 

 

Over at Jovoy on Conduit Street, the store has spaced out its many fragrance collections and displays to allow up to two groups at a time to navigate the shop floor. Visitors also get their own pot of blotters and a pencil to take round with them, which is such a good idea – I hope this continues when we get back to normal – and there are vinyl gloves to wear for when you pick up the fragrance bottles to spray.

There have been a number of new launches at the store since lockdown including a wonderfully cheering medley of song-inspired fragrances from Musicology, a brand that stimulates the senses, memories and vibrations via music. Anyone who has read the recent Music & Perfume edition of The Scented Letter will feel slightly smug at already knowing the strong connection between sound and scent. I tried ‘Caus I’m Happy, a veritable rhythm of grapefruit, orange and bergamot citrus, and found myself humming Pharrell’s catchy tune of the same name for the rest of the day.

 

 

The store is also trialling a pre-selling service (a bit like stores would create a waiting list for an ‘it’ bag, although doesn’t that seem and age ago now?) for highly anticipated fragrances suffering from postponed lockdown launches.

For example, store visitors can get an exclusive sniff of Widian’s Limited Edition 71 Intense, and put down an order before its autumn launch, grabbing one of the never-to-be-repeated bottles. Store manager Ines Serracino explained that they hope to do more pre-selling as the team has noticed an increased demand for hard to get fragrances.

Watch out fashion, it looks like fragrance is now the hot item creating wish lists…’

We continue Amanda’s ‘new normal’ scent discovery shopping trip TOMORROW.  So come back then to have your senses further temted back in store…

(Text and pictures by Amanda Carr, edited by Suzy Nightingale).

WIN a MALIN+GOETZ summer scent candle gift hamper!

In celebration of the latest scent-sational candle from MALIN+GOETZ, the Tomato candle – literally like stepping into a greenhouse (in a very sophisticated way!) – we’ve teamed up with the Brooklyn-born fragrance house and skincare experts to bring not one, but TWO lucky winners a summer scent candle gift hamper WORTH £168!

Each hamper will contain the following…

Tomato candle

Inspired by a passion for gardening, this candle is a beautifully bright interpretation of home-grown tomatoes ripening in the summer sun. Unbelievably evocative.

Sage candle

A herbaceous scent that evokes a summer herb garden with notes of sage and lavender. An aromatic delight.

Otto candle

A sparkling floral scent where a garden in bloom springs to mind with a blend of rose and geranium. Like all of M+G’s candles, it burns for absolutely ages, filling the air with its ravishing rosiness.

Vetiver candle

A woody scent of an apothecary ingredient with a clean and earthy aroma. Very grounding, very welcome in these strange, uncertain times.

 

For your chance to win, simply enter below

MALIN+GOETZ Summer Candle Gift Hamper Prize Draw

Win a MALIN+GOETZ Summer Scent Candle Gift Hamper (worth value £168)
    We only use your phone number to contact you in the event of you being a competition winner. By entering the promotion, you consent to the transfer of data between The Perfume Society Ltd & MALIN+GOETZ Limited, and being used in accordance with their Privacy Policies, which can be found at: https://www.malinandgoetz.co.uk/privacy-policy & https://perfumesociety.org/privacy-policy/ By entering the competition, you consent to being contacted by e-mail, post or telephone with promotional offers, competitions, news and updates. If you change your mind at any time, you can opt out of receiving marketing communications (i) by e-mail by clicking on the unsubscribe link within the marketing e-mails you receive from us; or (ii) by SMS by following the “STOP” instructions provided with the message or (iii) by postal mail by following the instructions that may be included in a particular promotion.

* This prize draw runs from 09:00 7th August 2020 – 23:59 21st August 2020. A winner will be chosen and contacted on 22nd August 2020. UK and Northern Ireland participants only.

Gucci Bloom: the FREE arcade game!

Did you know Gucci has a Gucci Arcade App, where players can download free (ultra glam) retro style arcade games? Well now Gucci Bloom has its very own game added…

We are excited to announce today the release of the Gucci Bloom Game in the Gucci Arcade on the Gucci App! It is the first game dedicated to fragrance!

In the Gucci Bloom game, players embody their favorite fragrant fashionistas from the new Gucci Bloom advertising campaign – entering a mysterious garden and using magic to bloom the blossoms.

 

 

 

The game takes inspiration from the just-launched and stunningly surrealistic campaign video for Gucci Bloom, of which Gucci says: ‘The new Gucci Bloom campaign opens with Florence Welch exploring the abandoned theatres of La Scarzuola, a surrealist architectural compound built around an old Franciscan convent. Award-winning photographer and director Floria Sigismondi creates a garden of dreams where magic blooms and intensifies to its crescendo with a floral explosion showering the four protagonists: award-winning actress and director Anjelica Huston, singer songwriter Florence Welch, actress Jodie Turner-Smith and designer Susie Cave. Some scenes take inspiration from the popular French musical film ‘Peau d’Âne,’ directed by Jacques Demy. The stop motion flower sequences in the campaign are animated by the Brothers Quay.’

 

 

And in the flower-filled Gucci Arcade game, the appealingly 80s-style retro graphics continue the story and explore the whimsical Gucci aesthetic as ‘…players enter a mysterious garden and using a fairy dust light beam are able to magic the blossoms to bloom.’ Players can choose a character created in the likeness of the new talents featured in the campaign, and really it’s just the most delightful way to pass the time – particularly in these enduringly strange days of social distancing due to the glocal pandemic of Covid-19 still wreaking chaos.

 

In fact, gaming figures have risen by a whopping 65% globally, according to statista.com, who report that ‘While cinemas and theaters closed their doors to try to stem the spread of the disease, many people turned to home entertainment during periods of self-isolation.’ So if you’ve never explored the fascinating world of online and app games, now is the perfect time to give it a go.

 

 

Gucci explain that, ‘…the Gucci Bloom game is accessible from the Gucci Arcade map on the Gucci App, where players can choose between a lineup of different games. Employing and displaying the hallmarks of the House, all of the games on the App are unique, while sharing a common spirit of entertainment.’

#InBloom

And really, if we’re gonna start gaming, could there be a better way to begin than a FREE perfume-inspired Gucci Bloom Arcade game…?

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Yardley London launch ‘Fragrance Diagnostic Tool’ to find your new fave (plus a discount!)

It can often be tricky navigating your way through a range of new fragrances, so Yardley London has launched a Fragrance Diagnostic Tool online, to provide personalised fragrance recommendations (AND a discount code!) via your favourite ingredients, and a signpost to your perfect scent…

Celebrating their 250th anniversary (an incredible heritage you can read all about on our page dedicated to their history), Yardley London’s Fragrance Diagnostic Tool is a quick and simple way to guide you to your new favourite fragrance. All you need to do is pick some of your favourite notes from a list, and the fragrances that most closely match your taste will be presented to you.

I got matched to April Violets, which shows it works, as that’s one of my all-time favourites – all powdery/pretty with verdant violet leaf adding shade) –  and Blossom & Peach, which I must admit to not knowing so well, but it sounds utterly perfect for me. Blackcurrant, rose, peach, lilac and geranium with woody notes, patchouli and musk? Yes please! So that’s on my must-try list.

Even better: Once the diagnostic has been completed, customers receive a 10% off discount code valid on the Yardley range of eau de toilettes. So maybe my ‘must try‘ list is suddenly ‘must buy right NOW’…

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Penhaligon’s Language of Flowers

Love’s language may be talked with these
To work out choicest sentences,
No blossoms can be meeter
And, such being used in Eastern bowers
Young maids may wonder if the flowers
Or meanings be the sweeter.

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING, 1806 – 1861 

 

With our ‘Step in to the Gardenissue of The Scented Letter Magazine hot off the press, and more of us craving the colours, textures and (of course) scents of flowers more than ever in these uncertain times… floral inspiration is springing up all over!

Penhaligon’s have published a fascinating guide to the ancient ‘Language of Flowers‘ – the hidden meanings attached to seemingly innocent blooms, and how these could be used to send secret messages that bypassed stringent social ettiquette in the past…

What’s more, Penhaligon’s are inviting you to construct your own virtual bouquet to send to someone special, and when you sign up to their Penhaligon’s Times newsletter, both you and your friend will receive a £10 gift voucher to enjoy.

 

 

The newsletter is always packed full of interesting scented snippets, and here is their explantion of that secret scented Language of Flowers, first printed in the Penhaligon’s Times:

‘What could be more pleasurable than receiving an unexpected bunch of flowers! A bunch of bluebells to brighten a day. Lily of the Valley to celebrate a lover’s return, or a simple rose to nurture a budding romance. How much more pleasurable may be if the flowers themselves carry a hidden meaning. From ancient times flowers have been symbolic. The Romans honoured their heroes with laurel wreaths and Greek mythology tells how many flowers were created.

Poets have always extolled the virtues of flowers, and since Elizabethan times have written on their meanings. But it was the Victorians who turned flower-giving into an art. Inspired by a book entitled Le Langage de Fleurs by Madame de la Tour, the Victorians practised the new floral code with the same dedication with which they built their cities and furnished their homes.

The choice of flower was all important, but so too was the manner of presentation. If the flowers were upside down the opposite meaning was intended. Thus tulips presented with their stems uppermost meant blatant rejection from a lover. If the ribbon was tied to the left, the meaning referred to the giver, if tied to the right, to the recipient. On the other hand, one could always respond by wearing the flower in different ways – on her heart of course meant love, but worn in the hair implied caution. Both are acceptable locations for a light mist of scent.’

 

 

So now, what will your virtual bouquet say in this secret Language of Flowers, we wonder…?

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Stories Parfums: a guided scent discovery, LIVE online!

Stories Parfums is a house filled with evocative, emotional story-telling through scent. And now you are invited to join a private VIP Scent Club, where you can ‘…receive samples of our fragrances and learn how to connect with your own story through the art of fragrance, live online with Tonya.’

Tonya Kidd-Beggs is the Founder and Creative Director of Stories Parfums, and right for the get-go, she knew she wanted to create a house where the fragrances were unashamedly emotionally driven – reaching into the depths of mislaid memories, childhood dreams and long-forgotten hope.

 

 

Stories Parfums say this is ‘a unique opportunity to experience STORIES Parfums first hand alongside our Founder and learn a little more about the art of fragrance and the development of our gender-inclusive brand, and invite you to join us LIVE online, from the comfort of your home.’

This intimate exploration of scent with fellow fragrance lovers is £5 per person and for that, you will be sent 4 x deluxe 2ml samples of STORIES No.01 and STORIES No.02.

‘Tonya will host a guided group discovery of each of the scents to experience together the unique notes and ingredients in each eau de parfum’.

Tonya will welcome your questions and scent stories in this one-off online group session via ZOOM on Friday 31 July at 4pm BST.

In addition, there will be a sneak preview of upcoming product launches and participant exclusive offers. But hurry! There are only 20 places in this very special session, and you will need to book your ticket in time for your samples to arrive!

 

Written By Suzy Nightingale

Mary Celestia – 150 year old scent discovered on a ship wreck (and remade!)

A team of divers and archaeologists discovered a 19th-century fragrance in a shipwreck off the coast of Bermuda, and the scent has now been painstakingly researched and reconstructed for you to smell for yourself…

Bermuda is perhaps most associated with the infamous ‘Bermuda Triangle’ – an area in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean where a surprising number of ships and aircraft have gone missing (often said to be under mysterious circumstances) over the years. In fact, Bermuda has over 300 known shipwrecks lying dormant on the sea bed, and in one of them – The Mary Celestia – whose hull was spotted by Philippe Max Rouja, the island’s custodian of historic wrecks, following a huge storm in 2011; the search team came across this rare and intriguing fragrant find…

 

 

In the news story, Atlas Obscura reported that ‘After a week of examining the wreck, a team of divers and archaeologists found a number of artifacts, including shoes, wine, and two small bottles of perfume. The items were packed together, leading the team to think they may have been gifts. Save for some mineral deposits that had formed on them, the bottles appeared to be intact. One still contained a small air bubble inside, which otherwise would have been forced out by seawater. Etched on the glass were the names “Piesse and Lubin London.”

Rouja brought the bottles to Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone, the owner of a local boutique perfume store called Lili Bermuda. Ramsay-Brackstone immediately knew they were a rare find. “In the 1800s, London was a center of the perfume industry and Piesse and Lubin was the name of a prominent perfume house on Bond Street,” she says.’

 

 

Indeed, I know that name well, having recently researched and written an article about perfumer G.W. Septimus Piesse for our Music & Perfume issue of The Scented Letter magazine!

In 1857, Piesse (who was a perfumer and chemist) published a popular olfactory guide called The Art of Perfumery and the Methods of Obtaining the Odours of Plants. This guide went on to shape the history of perfumery, and if you’ve ever referred to perfumes having ‘notes’ or being ‘composed’, it’s Piesse’s ‘Gamut of Odors’ you have to thank – a comparative scale of different aromas based on a musical scale.

But what, you may wonder, did this perfume sunk for so many years smell like?

‘After carefully scraping the mineral deposits off the bottles and opening them,’ Atlas Obscura reports, Ramsay-Brackstone and fellow perfumer Jean Claude Delville from Drom, took a tentative sniff…

‘One bottle gave of a whiff of a rotten smell. Unfortunately, some seawater had seeped in and spoiled the fragrance. But the other specimen survived intact after 150 years underwater. According to the duo, it smelled of orange, bergamot, and grapefruit with a faint aroma of flowers and sandalwood. There were also some musky “animal notes,” such as civet or ambergris…’

Using gas chromatography (a process similar to unravelling DNA, where fragrant ingredients are captured and their chemical structure analysed to show the exact mixture) didn’t reveal all – Delville admits that after some detective work to discover what ingredients Piesse used in his fragrances, they also had to rely on ‘…my nose to do the reconstitution.’

 

 

It was important for them to try and achieve the perfume’s exact aroma, he continued, because ‘We didn’t want to recreate just a modern version of the fragrance. We wanted to stay true to the original scent.’ So during several months of trials and over 110 differing combinations, the pair decided to use orange flower, roses, sandalwood, and vanilla in addition to the gas chromatography findings.

Naming the final creation Mary Celestia, the initial launch was limited to 1,854 bottles (refrencing the fateful year the ship sunk), because they weren’t sure how popular a shipwrecked scent would be. But it proved to be such a success that the fragrance is now stocked again in Isabelle’s shop.

It sounds utterly beautiful, looking at the list of notes and description, so although I may have been swept away by the romance of the story, I’d certainly give it go. Would you like to wear the scent of a shipwreck…?

 

Mary Celestia $130 for 100ml eau de parfum (samples and smaller sizes also available)
lilibermuda.com

Written by Suzy Nightingale