Notes & Queries by David Herkt

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Notes & Queries: Time & Perfume

19 Responses

  • Ngaire BookieMonster,

    I LOVE Mitsouko, it is an unbelievably beautiful smell, and it can work as well on men as on women. I get why reformulations became required but in some ways it's also rather sad. The idea of spending hours in a vintage perfume house, being able to smell all the scents on offer (in between coffee beans, of course) seems heavenly and also overpowering.

    Perfume is so incredibly evocative, partially because people's skin becomes the last ingredient in a scent, and so everyone subtly transforms smells to be a part of themselves. Even more amazing to be able to smell history.

    This piece was wonderful reading, thank you.

    At the foot of Mt Te Aroh… • Since Nov 2009 • 174 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Thank you for writing this, David. Fascinating!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22293 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    'Nosis'
    the secret knowledge of the nose...


    When in aroma...
    Perhaps it is like 'the Scottish play' -
    but I always thought **Amygdala**
    would be a perfect name for a perfume...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7565 posts Report Reply

  • Kebabette,

    OOhhh now you're talking. I revel in perfume, if I was rich would have roomfuls of it. I am a Shalimar girl, but love Mitsouko. Guerlain's male scents like Vetiver are also sublime.

    Some of my most exciting Twitter moments was when Luca Turin tweets me. Squee! He's in my pantheon.

    I am curious about odd perfumes too ( have a hankering to smell like a book.

    Wonderful stuff David and Public Address.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 214 posts Report Reply

  • David Herkt, in reply to Kebabette,

    In my original conception, I really wanted to do Shalimar (1925) and Vol de Nuit (1933), but gradually they began not to fit my scheme. They are both great fragrances – and I have a special fondness for Vol de Nuit.

    Like you I’m quite interested in those very precise evocations of odd smells. I’m smelled a few of those Demeter fragrances and there is also CB I hate Perfume which has the best tomato patch in summer (Memory of Kindness) and the best cold wintry mud (Black March). I used to love wearing Black March to business meetings in the TV industry. There was something nice about sitting there smelling of rich cold mud that worked for me a lot… (Hello TVNZ!) and my bottle is nearly empty which shows quite a bit of use.

    I always wear Apres l’Ondee to funerals, Chanel’s Cuir de Russie to impress men, Vetiver and Habit Rouge for ordinary daywear – but Mitsouko for myself.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2007 • 52 posts Report Reply

  • Kebabette, in reply to David Herkt,

    Damn you must smell good! Those CBs sound intriguing. I have CB In the library which smells more of book dust than books per se. Am getting a bottle of Paperback by Demeter soon.

    I like what Etat Libre D'Orange and L'Artisan do too - I have gone through my bottle of Timbuktu way too quick (supposedly for men - but pshaw to gendering perfumes).

    And I think Gorilla/Lush do some amazing things. Am wearing Voice of Reason today which has a whiff of brandy.

    Viva le good pongs!

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 214 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I love perfume, and this column touches on a lot of the reasons why. I'm not much into clothes, or at all into shoes or makeup, but there's an entire drawer in my dresser full of perfumes. These days I get most of mine from Possets - all their scents are hand-blended by one woman who has an absolute passion for perfume. She relates scents to seasons, countries, mythologies, various cats... Every year she runs a Cambienne, which is bottled and released several times as it matures, so every Cambienne is different.

    When we were in Aswan, our guide took us to a place that sold essential oils and were also suppliers to European perfumiers. They sat us on ornate couches and gave us karkady while we had a smelling session. Then they sat us down with their catalogue, got us to name perfumes (Hugo Boss, Joop, dozens of big-name perfumes) and they told us which name they sold that blend as. They were pure essential oils, without alcohol. I brought home Lotus (warm, soft, floral) and Papyrus (dry, higher note, more masculine) because those were the scents I was never going to get anywhere else.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4620 posts Report Reply

  • Rachael J,

    A subject close to my heart. My first ever 'grown up' perfume was Mitsouko when I was about 17 or 18 - a present from my dad. He bought it from then Silver Ferns coach, Lois Muir, who worked in a pharmacy in Dunedin that specialised in fragrance. My dad takes buying fragrance very seriously and is very good at it. He bought Balahe for my mum many years ago. I think it is now out of production but still one of the most distinctive fragrances I've ever encountered.

    I still love Mitsouko but now wear Shalimar for every day. Mitsouko is almost so complex and layered that I find myself distracted by it when I wear it. I've flirted with other perfumes but always come back to Shalimar.

    A fascinating read. I love that even reading about fragrance can trigger the same memories as the perfumes themselves.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2007 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew C,

    This might be the perfect place to ask this question:

    Are there places where I can get a perfume made that matches an out-of-production scent?

    My partner would love to get hold of an Issey Miyake perfume that they no longer produced. My very limited enquiries to date have not turned up a company or a "nose" who is able to hand mix us something up. I guess they would need to know the original, but perhaps the major brands are fairly well documented somewhere?

    Anyone know?

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 166 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Coincidentally, our book group is currently reading The Emperor of Scent, about Luca Turin.
    Sadly I have a very poor sense of smell so I'm not really able to join in the general rapture..

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 807 posts Report Reply

  • David Herkt, in reply to Andrew C,

    Hi Andrew, Le Feu d'Issey? For discontinued brands you have a few options like ebay, or samples websites like Perfumed Court or Surrender To Chance which can provide various sized small decants - but at a price (and probably hefty in the case of Le Feu d'Issey). I don't know anyone who mixes up 'smells-like' fragrances, though I guess they exist.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2007 • 52 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew C, in reply to David Herkt,

    Le Feu d’Issey?

    Yep, got it in one :)

    I have seen them for sale on Ebay for around 200-400, but we worry about whether they are still in good shape, I have had issues with old perfumes in the past.

    If you ever chance upon anything let the PA community know, i'm sure I am not the only one who would like to use a service like this.

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 166 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Kebabette,

    odour clones...

    a bottle of Paperback...

    One whiff of Biblio Moulder's
    Calvinist tang, foxes me...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7565 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    Wonderful transporting writing. Inspired to track down these perfumes now. Could get expensive!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 162 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    I heartily, heartily recommend the book "The Emperor of Scent" by Chandler Burr as a very fine read. It is a sort-of biography of the biophysicist Luca Turin, who co-authored "Perfumes: The Guide".

    My copy of The Emperor of Scent is basically in a permanent state of being lent out to people.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • Lee Jensen,

    Thank you David for this post.
    I feel I should offer some context, because this is an area of great interest to me.
    I read Denyse Beaulieu's _Perfume Lover_, the account of the creation of the fragrance _Séville à l'aube_ in 2012, and it catalysed something in me. I bought the Turin/Sanchez A-Z guide, and a little black book, and I started making notes and lists…
    David, you raise a issue, albeit in a tacit way, for those of us who've caught the bug - just how far we are here from the culture and society that created and wore the original _Mitsouko, Iris Gris, Fougere Royale_... Yes, there's the internet. But I worry about the provenance of some samples; how can I really _know_ that I am smelling what I'm supposed to be? Even more cruelly, I can never really smell _No. 5_ as it was created in 1921. And I find a certain tension in the romanticisation of the vintage scents, the newer reformulations loved partly through a nostalgic reverie.

    So in the spirit of picking your battles, I made the decision to collect the fragrances around me right now, to spend money on the contemporary creative acts rather than spend the time and energy tracking down vintage material. Not that you can't do both of course, but perfume, especially _niche_ perfume, is an expensive hobby. Much of what I have now I've picked up in Paris and Italy, a little bit online (though the Etat Libre d'Orange samples arrived smashed), and at Peony and Klein's in Melbourne.

    For Kebabette, might I suggest _Paper Passion_ by Geza Shoen, devised with Karl Lagerfeld for the publisher Steidl and Wallpaper; it is intended to smell of new paper, of books. It's a little austere, something we might expect from Geza Shoen, but it does speak to my interest in the conceptual playfulness of a lot of contemporary fragrance houses: Etat, the fragrant empires of Parfum d'Empire, the work of Blood Concept, the characters of Histoires de Parfums…

    So for Kebabette (and Ian) even lovelier is _Biblioteca de Babel_ by Argentinian house Fueguia 1833 - as they describe it "cedar shelves, heavy leather bookbindings, vellum leaves, the smell of ink. The complex environment of an old book is brought to life". Neater still, the library of books belongs to Jorge Borges.

    I'm going back to Paris in November, following my nose of course. I've got a list that's getting longer and longer (so thank goodness for the check-in being about weight not the number of bags). And I have a question: has anyone been to the Versailles Osmotheque, and considers it a worthwhile visit?
    Also, if I can be of use to anyone traveling in Italy, between Roma and Milano, in locating niche perfume stores, I'd be delighted.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Lee Jensen,

    So it look like I'll have to work on those Italics...

    Wellington • Since Mar 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Jennifer Dalziel,

    I think the public response to the reformulated Guerlain perfumes was so vociferous in its dislike of the new products that Guerlain has changed the formulations back to pre 2007. I could be wrong... I think it happened in 2012 or 2013

    Since May 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Jennifer Dalziel,

    I think the new formulations came out towards the end of 2012... probably for the Xmas market. Guerlain didnt change the formulations back to pre 2007... they refornulated them again. These new formulations are more popular than the post 2007 ones but not as popular as pre 2007.

    Since May 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

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