Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TVPV to be available via Webring

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

20 Carats 20 Quilates 20Ks Vintage Dana Perfume Review

Note: This post has been edited.

One of the most famous stories about Dana erfume is that of its first perfume, Tabu. It’s said that Serra asked Jean Carles to create ‘un parfum de puta’, and Carles brought him Tabu. Since then clever magazine advertisements for Dana perfumes stated the perfume was designed just for a specific type or even a specific coloring, of woman. I'm not sure that was an idea of Serra's so much as an idea of clever marketing men. There were more than 50 Dana perfumes created but it seems that the majority of these had limited release only in Europe (or France), so most of these I've only seen in photographs. From what I've gleaned there were only about 10 Dana perfumes released here in USA. These were Tabu (1932), 20 Carats (1933), Canoe (1935), Emir (1936), Platine (193x), Sirocco Donna (1942), Voo Doo (194X), Priorite (1949), Imposible (1950) and Ambush (1955). The dates indicate when these perfumes were created, not when they debuted in America. Of those, I've only smelled Tabu, Emir, Ambush, Canoe, Platine and 20 Carats- hardly a fair sampling of all this house had to offer in its prime.

Probably the most familiar and accessible of all of Dana’s original scents is Tabu. The sensation that Tabu created may have cast a shadow on those scents that were released soon afterwards. There are so many I haven't smelled yet... of those VooDoo, Sirocco Donna, Priorite and Imposible, all US releases, remain high on my “most wanted” to-sniff list. Of course I'd love to find any of the beautiful old French Dana perfumes even more.

But of those I've tried the two that captivated me right away were 20 CARATS (20Ks) and Platine! They are kind of nifty also being the only paired fragrances I know of among the Dana creations. Each perfume is named for a precious metal and speaking to the luxury and presentation values of this brand, each perfume came with large flakes of real gold or platinum swirling around in the perfume. Uber modern designer-perfumer Solange Azagury-Partridge has given us another pair of perfumes with precious materials incorporated into them by putting diamond dust into her very delicious (psychadelic candy amber) chypre perfume, Stoned and meteorite dust into it's partner, the lovely Cosmos.

Dana's 20 Carats came out in 1933. But in this time perfumes were produced and sold in perhaps only one shop and for Dana that was in Paris. So American women did not even know about these perfumes until they received them from boyfriends and husbands stationed in France during the War. In the late 1940s Dana began to export a select number of its perfumes, including 20 Carats, to America. It surprised me to learn that 20 Carats continued to be a best selling luxury scent in high-end department stores here in the US until the 1980s when it was discontinued! But my bottle of 20 Carats came in a numbered box (#3302) from the late 1940s or early 1950s. It’s the cologne version which according to the box was “blended in the USA from imported essences”. The bottle had lain neglected on my back shelf for the past couple of years; I'd haul it out periodically but I never cracked the thick cardboard seal open. Then, just before Christmas this year, I snagged a pristine, sealed bottle of Platine (which I'd never heard of either). Something about having this beautiful pair inspired me. So right then, I popped the bottles open. As soon as I smelled 20 Carats, I knew right away that this perfume was fully wearable and had to be immortalized here on TVPV..

20 Carats- The Review:

‘Carat’ can refer to either gold or gemstones. But with the gold flakes and rich color, you can tell it’s named after the metal. Yet I can just as easily picture it being named after a gorgeous (red!) 20 carat gemstone. And how does 20 Carats (20ks) smell? The first notes to fill my nose sweet orange, cherry, whisky and tobacco, followed immediately by the spicy-powdery, almost rubbery nutmeg brought to mind images from an upscale 1920's speakeasy- sipping on a Manhattan cocktail, the muted horns, the smoky room. The scent releases a relaxed, warm glow that says the party has been on a while. Myrrh and fennel (or anise), and tangetes or another herbaceous flower adds some depth to the impression of rich spice.
But the heart of this fragrance opens up to reveal fully a carnation theme with cinnamon, precious balsamic and root beer notes, accompanied by powdery sweet helitrope and patchouli. The dry down has a nice touch of woody, rooty vetiver to accompany the sweet balsams, tonka and patchouli. Powdery musks and a tiny bit of animal (civet?) are also apparent. Hours later the fragrance has fully settled leaving only traces of the sweet powdery heliotrope, vanilla like tonka and cinnamon on the skin. In reading about this scent, I noticed a few people referred to it as a fougere, which if you're unsure, is described as: Fougère means "fern" in French, is a fragrance family including fresh, floral, herbaceous and woody/warm elements, typically blended with notes like: bergamot oakmoss, lavender, coumarin, tonka bean, sandalwood, and geranium. While a fern doesn't have a distinctive smell per this particular fragrance classification implies a mossy green, forest-like aroma(quote from BellaSugar.com) There may be oakmoss in this blend but what I smell is vetiver, I'm almost sure and it is not enough to make a green or foresty base.
Instead, I find this to be a seductive cheerful perfume, relaxed and rich (as I mentioned)- if you picture a cocktail, a cigarette, the allure of gold jewelry against tanned skin, you will get the picture. I think Terracotta by Guerlain is along the same lines. 20 carats completes a picture of a woman of grace, ease and enjoying the good life circa 1933. If Serra had Tabu created as the perfect perfume for a puta, then I will try to guess for what sort of beautiful woman this perfume would have been made… It could only be Renee Perle! Ms. Perle was the famous and fabulous muse of Jacques Henri Lartigue. They met in 1930 and the rest was captured and immortalized by his photographs of her. Laird Borrelli on style.com wrote that, “'Jacques Henri Lartigue… called her "angel". The revered photographer met his muse in 1930 on the Rue de la Pompe. He thought she was Mexican, but he guessed wrong; Perle was Romanian, and a model once employed by the French dressmaker Doeuillet. "She is beautiful," Lartigue told his diary. "The small mouth with the full painted lips! The ebony black eyes. From under her fur coat comes a warmth of perfume. The head looks petite on her long neck."
20 Carats came out 3 years after the pair met, but they were still together at that time. As I imagine it: the lovers are together shopping in Paris. They stroll along the rue de la paix perhaps stopping off before lunch at the Les Parfums Dana shop on 9, rue de la Paix. Renee picks up a perfume bottle; she is drawn to the golden flotsam contained within – it matches the gold on her arm. But before can purchase the perfume for her, it is lifted from his hands and presented to her with a flourish by the perfumer… He has just finished 20 Carats, his latest creation, and brought it to Javier Serra in the show room of the Les Parfums shop. And looking up, he sees before him the vision of the woman he made the perfume for. Or so goes my romantic dream. At least it’s plausible.
I enjoy wearing 20 Carats way more than I might expect to, given its formula is nearly 75 year old. But Carnation is a favorite of mine and this perfume has a precious amber musky golden deliciousness to it. It’s furry but not like wild animal fur; it’s like the soft, luxurious belly fur of a contented house cat. It might be a tad powdery (“old lady”) for today's hip younger perfumistas but I hope somewhere someone under the age of 30 is wearing 20 Carats and loving it for all it is. Look for my review of Platine, coming next.

Photo Credits:

1. 1954 Tabu magazine ad
2. 1952 Dana Perfumes magazine ad
3. 1960s Dana 20 Carats magazine ad (no photo credit available)
4, 5 Renee Perle (photos by Jacques Henri Lartigue both early 1930s)
6. 1970s Dana 20 Carats magazine ad
7. the Orange Cat

A Short History: The House of Dana Perfumes

Dana Logo circa 1940-1950 (photo credit: Uncle Sam Jones)

Dana Perfumes – The History:
The House of Dana was founded in 1921 by Javier Serra in Barcelona, Spain. Serra had worked previously as director of Myrurgia but he left there to open his own house. Serra chose the name Dana for his business because it was short, good sounding in all languages and could be easily tied to perfume and beauty themes- according to the Museu del Perfum, Dana was: "in Greek mythology the nymph that was planted flowers along the Mediterranean. Dana in ancient Egypt of the pharaohs, was the name given to women who are distinguished for their beauty. Dana in Afghanistan means sweet awakening. Dana is the name of an island in the Pacific, where, apparently, the youth has no sunset. Dana in the old and mysterious Basque language, means success." Furthermore, Dana means white pearl in Arabic and in Buddhism, Dana refers to the practice of generosity! For the company’s logo Serra chose a dramatic Greek-inspired Art Deco drawing of a woman's head taken from a sculpture by Mariano Andreu. He also engaged the most talented perfumers to create original scents according to his requests and packaged his products gracefully.

(photo credit: passionforperfume.com)

He was set to compete with the best in the world so on August 22, 1932 Serra released to the world the first Dana perfume, Tabu. The House of Dana, located in Paris went on to release a string of nearly 50 original perfumes through the 1950s, among the best known in the USA are Tabu(1932), 20 Carats (1933), Canoe (1935), Emir (1936), Platine (193x), Sirocco Donna (1942), VooDoo (194X), Priorite (1949), Imposible (1950) and Ambush (1955). Jean Carles who had composed many outstanding perfumes of the modern era such as Shocking de Schiaparelli, Ma Griffe and Miss Dior, created three of the early Dana perfumes: Tabu, Emir and Canoe. (The perfumers who made the many other of his early perfumes have seemingly been forgotten.)

Benckiser, a German family-run company that produced mostly chemicals and soaps acquired Dana at some point in the 1980s. A few of the more popular Dana perfumes were still produced but the Benckiser group finally sold what was left of Dana to Renaissance Cosmetics Inc in 1995.

Renaissance had begun as a pet project of Thomas Bonoma’s. Bonoma, was the former head of Harvard's MBA program and a well thought of marketing expert. He was especially interested in perfumes and had an idea that if he purchased as many small ‘Mom-and-Pop' cosmetic companies (those who’d created successful perfume products but that had fallen out of production) as he could and new products under the familiar names of those old favorites, he would tap into consumer nostalgia- and find a ready market for the companies new goods.

Soon after taking over the Cosmar Corp in 1994, Renaissance began to get into perfumes. First they bought 12 fragrances from Houbigant. Things went well and the company went on an “acquisition binge” in 1995 at which time they acquired Dana. The company had planned to grow the brand aggressively. But in 1997, at the age of 50, Bonoma, the company's founder and visionary, died suddenly. The company soon floundered and by 2000 it had been put up for auction. However, Dana didn't languish; a private Florida investment group snapped it up right away and 'New Dana' was born. New Dana continues today to produce many of the best loved “classic perfumes” that you can see in mostly drugstores and cheaper department stores throughout America and Canada. They have continued to expand their catalog of lower-end fragrances with the addition of more recently discontinued releases. Some of their most popular current scents include Love's Baby Soft, Navy, Toujours Moi, Chantilly, British Sterling, English Leather. They even make perfumes named for 2 reformulated Canoe and Tabu.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chandler Burr (and I) on the Nature of Scent

(Photo of ChandlerBurr, from narrativemagazine.com) I always read Mr. Burr's perfume reviews and articles with keen interest however I had not yet read anything from his book, The Emperor of Scent. But today I stumbled upon some of it and it got me thinking about just how it is that we can smell...

Note: Blogging is new to me so forgive the bumbs... I've been cleaning up some html tags, and edited some content of this piece, to clarify my points and add a few examples.

(photo credit: Robin at words-worth)
BTW: she does NOT let her dog eat chocolate!

For your information: Talktothevet.com says 100-150 mg/kg of theobromine(related to theophillin and caffine) can cause a lethal toxic reaction in dogs. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg of theobromine per oz. (other types are considerably stronger). Using 100 mg/kg as the toxic dose, if a 2 pound dog ate 2 ounces of pure milk chocolate, that would be the lethal toxic amount; since a Hershey's bar weighs 1.5 ounces, that's a full bar and a half of chocolate, in one sitting... but I'm sure there are dogs who would be able to accomplish this... So take care! I've found there are quite a few human foods that a dog might try eat, that can harm him including onions, avocados, stone fruit pits and lots of other stuff like house plants and out door shrubs. Since most puppies love to chew things, you've got to be quick; I've been 'outfoxed' a few times by my canine friends, too. But I digress.

Mr. Burr goes on to explain the role evolution plays in all this trouble:

"So evolution has by now selected for you a complete, fixed genetic library of enzymes that will bind to and deal with a fixed list of molecules. (It's not an exact one-to-one enzyme-to-foodstuff ratio, but it's precise enough that it's why your dog famously can't digest chocolate, a culinary product his wolf ancestors never ate: evolution never selected for dogs an enzyme that recognized the shape of chocolate's molecules, so if you feed them these molecules, they get sick.) And if just one enzyme is missing, you end up with nasty, sometimes lethal, diseases and disorders" —

He's right. But one of the hallmarks of any living systems is its ability to adapt to changes in its environment. It turns out that we share a considerable amount of DNA material with all other living things. And the wolf (or dog) carries most of what we have, too! It turns out we even have something like 90% (or 75% or some god-awful high percent) of the DNA of corn!! So all living things are really very connected. And under the right conditions it seems to me the dog should be able to adapt to eat many things not intended for his diet. He's a master survivor, after all. In a world marked by upheavals, such as land mass shifts and ice-ages and global warming, it's hard to believe that anything would be able to survive well without the ability to deal with novelty, right?

Blame my background in medical science, but I think immediately of our immune system when I think about novelty; it's specifically designed to deal with all the novel molecules we encounter- even mutated viruses that have never existed anywhere on earth before. This ever vigilant, ever alert army circulates throughall all loactinos of our bodies, on the lookout for any foreign molecules- to them, anything that isn't you is alien, novel and suspect. It nearly instantly detects and decides which molecules are dangerous and which can be tolerated (or welcomed). Every baby begins life dependent but the taste and smell senses are turned on from the first. Every infant must taste and smell new things and begins to discriminate right away. So smell must be adapted especially to detect and deal with novelty: what smells like a nipple, what doesn't, even which breast, left or right; Mothers will tell you, babies know these things.

(oh dear, I lost the credit for this pic when I was editing! But at least I can tell you these dogs have responsible owners and they are eating "Doggy Safe" chocolate pops!)

Going back to dogs: When a dog is exposed to chocolate, he may find he likes it. I would never give chocolate to any dog but my own dogs are inquisitive little bandits (with great noses) and several bags of Pepperidge Farm chocolate chunk cookies have disappeared around our house, thanks to them. Luckily every one of the guilty doggy pack survived (...I've never even seen one of them get sick for their elicit binges!) Apparently doggy treat manufactures are also aware of the canine's forbidden love of chocolate and they now make Dog-Safe chocolate treats (I guess they've removed the offensive, Theobromine).

But back to scent: since it must work with novelty, perhaps it is the same way our immune system does. And how does our immune system do that, by the way? It's helped because ultimately everything within the universe is composed from a relatively small set of elements. When a scientist creates an entirely novel molecule for us to smell, it has been made from these same known building blocks. Organic chemistry is built around predicting how these chemical groups combine, figuring out the rules of how substances form, so we can predict how chemical groups will stick together, break apart and re-combine under different condtions... So, our sense of smell wouldn't try to analyze molecules as entire entities; rather it has to recognize the building blocks, and have a set of rules as to how those materials combine in order to predict (or decode) how any novel combination of building blocks ought to smell (similar to knowing something with such and such a backbone structure can smell like green if it's a straight chain, like sweet citrus if it's branched and minty if it's double bonded. When we read, we apply phonics rules in kcuh that way to translate and pronounce novel words we encounter correctly and fluently the first time we read them from print. In the same way, we can instantly know a unique scent (understanding it as sweet, soft vs sharp, sour etc... by comparing the new compound according to the components and using rules to predict, interpret how they smell).

I can recognize and remember a new face the same way; my visual receptors detect the interaction of light and shape along plane surfaces, noting buldges and recesses, allowing me to view, analyze and react to the novel face aesthetically, emotionally and intellectually, simultaneously and instantly and to memorize it forever. From then on, I should be able to recognize that face, distingush it from any other novel or known face (no matter how similar the faces are...). With practice the majorit yof us even learn to tell identical twin apart, but finer distinctions can require practice. In a similar way we may analyze and categorize smells.

Chandler Burr goes on: "So smell must be incredibly important for us," notes NIH geneticist Dean Hamer, "to devote so much of our DNA to it. The only comparable system—and this was the big surprise to everyone—is the immune system, and we all know why it's important to fight off invaders."

(photo title: Smell001, from wolfcountry.net)

Up to this point I've been blissfully ignorant of the work that's been done in smell, but now I see Luca Turin says anyone can take a crack at this (to figure out how we smell. He says he's got it, and I can't wait to read his book, another Christmas present this year, as my family finally begins to 'get' me perfume related gifts! I agree with the genetists- the immune system is the best model. If the scientists were more generalists, (and Sunday quarterbacks, like me) they might not have been too surprised. Either way, be it via the nose or some other route, you've got to identify all invaders first. That's what the immune system does and that's what smell must do. Afterall, smell is an early detection system, a way to know the world before sight, sound or touch is required. Even from a distance, if you smell smoke, you know there’s fire. Up close, it's a way to tell who has been in the den- even in the dark, or when you weren't there. Interestingly, our sense of smell is unqie in that it is the only spot in the entire body where our CNS (that's our Central Nervous System, the Big Boss) actually comes into physical contact with the outside world without benefit of the 'blood-brain barrier' to protect it. So it is actually designed as a portal where exotic airborne substances mix directly with our nuerons, bathing them in the actual scent chemicals directly. I would not be surprised to learn that immune cells themselves heavily populate that area as well, and help with the process of sequestering and maybe processing the scent chemicals.

So the poets were right in a way, the power of scent is it's magical sillage that can announce, linger behind, travel up our noses into our brains, and even trigger long-lost memories and emotions. Scent remains forever tethered to its source yet it moves through the air as well, ghost like, leaving an indelible trace behind. Hidden from all other senses, it guides us directly to the source like Hansel and Gretel’s trail of breadcrumbs...

I intend to read further into The Emperor of Scent and Lucia Turin's The Secret of Scent. Scent has been something so personal for me for so long, and now I'm finally stepping out into the warm light, of the writers and bloggers who share my passion. It has been fascinating so far and I'm sure every one has a lot more to say! I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my own post (and a double review!) on Dana.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Coty Emeraude vs Guerlain Shalimar


Emeraude, as portrayed by Marylin (uncredited studio shot)

Shalimar, as portrayed by Marilyn (photo credit: Bert Stern, 1962)

If a picture is worth a thousand words then these two photographs of Marilyn Monroe say more than enough about how I feel Emeraude and Shalimar stack up against each other. They are remarkably similar and a side-by-side sniff should be enough to convince you can that they must be related in some way. So what's the story about these two "twin" scents? Emeraude was created by Francois Coty in 1921; Shalimar by Jacques Guerlain was born four years later in 1925. At first it would seem perhaps natural that Emeraude would be the older, wiser sister and Shalimar the younger impetuous one. But if a well-loved story is true, Shalimar was actually created when a large quantity of some newly synthesized vanilla was unintentionally dumped into a vat of Jicky. Jicky was composed by Aime Guerlain in 1889. It is widely credited as the world's first 'modern' perfume.

Jicky Composition
Top: Lemon, Mandarin, Bergamot, Rosewood
Middle: Orris, Jasmin, Patchouli, Rose, Vetiver
Base: Leather, Amber, Civet, Tonka, Incense, Benzoin (from BaseNotes.net)

The revolutionary fact of Jicky wasn't it's individual elements- all these ingredients had been used in perfumery before; rather it was the way things were combined- new synthetics mixed with traditional distillations, the merging of yin and yang elements, masculine with feminine. This bold blend of florals and aromatics, on a base of feral/sour animal against sweet balsam was seen as a radical departure from the gentle single note flower waters and the zesty citrus/herbal colognes popular at that time. Women initially rejected this scent feeling it was too masculine. Guerlain's current version of Jicky has been softened by a dose of vanilla in the base and other changes. So if the story is true, from Jicky (1889) came Guerlain's masterpiece Shalimar(1925). Shalimar is said to be a love sonnet Jacques Guerlain composed for his young bride.

Shalimar Composition
Top note : Bergamot, Mandarin, Cedar, Lemon
Middle note : Patchouli, Jasmine, Rose, Orris
Base note : Vanilla, Benzoin, Peru Balsam, Leather (Ozmos version)

Jacques Guerlain increased the vanilla and added softness to re-create Jicky as Shalimar- a smoldering exotic but in keeping with the romantic feminine ideals of his day.

This is Guerlain's side of the story and even though Shalimar has been reformulated many times the essential form of Shalimar remains unchanged. If you are new to vintage perfumes, watch out for older or poorly decanted examples of Shalimar. It can age badly and when it does, ends up rancid and unwearable.

Emeraude's tale is less well know than Shalimar's perhaps but we do know that Coty began to create his perfumes around 1904 and Emeraude came out 4 years prior to Shalimar in 1921. By this time Coty had already composed a number of successful fragrances but Emeraude remains probably his most widely known, beloved and enduring creation.

Emeraude Composition:
Top notes: orange, bergamot and lemon;
Middle notes: jasmine, ylang ylang, rose and brazilian rosewood; (I say Iris/orris as well)
Base notes: amber, sandalwood, patchouli, opoponax, benzoin and vanilla. (from Fragrantica.com)

So is Emeraude an entirely new type developed by the mind of Coty alone or did it begin as an inspired copy (directly or indirectly) of Guerlain's influential Jicky? Or is Shalimar just Guerlain's redux of Coty's latest sensation? Comparing the listed notes above verifies the two perfumes have in common the citrus top with a jasmine, rose heart, subtle spices and a base that features vanilla and benzoin. The differences arise from Shalimar's use of a tart bergamot/cedar at the top, the addition of prominent leather notes and the extravagant, sublime balsam/vanilla base (more smokey, incense tinged). Emeraude has ylang and rosewood. There is only a hint of leather or skin, and a base of patchouli, myrrh, amber and sandalwood added (more spicy, less smoky). Perhaps you begin to sense the perfumers witchery the many different sometimes archane ways to combine and layer seemingly disparate notes to invent similar feeling scents...

The Review:

(photo credit: Uncle Sam Jones)

For reference my review is based on the perfume versions in the photograph above. The tiny bottle of Emeraude is a proper vintage version maybe around 1930-1940s. It was produced in Paris. I don't know the strength but it is called Emeraude de Coty. The Shalimar is a later eau de toilette. It comes in the bottle with vertical lines and black shoulders. I may be superstitious but I prefer Shalimar that comes in this bottle (was it the French version?). The larger bottle of Emeraude is a US 1960 - 1970s drug store version. Emeraude is extremely clean and pleasing at it's opening- lime, the ripe sweet fruit joined by the linden blossoms, with tiny hints of bell pepper and marmalade. Very soon the green begins to go cool and powdery as the first faint wintergreen/minty nuances appear. The iris/orris adds a violet/rose-lipstick facet; although sometimes I smell root beer instead at this stage (also a facet of the iris). The root beer/wintergreen aspect is what some people smell as a cola note. Inside of this lemon-lime soda smelling scent is tucked a clean almost soapy theme that gives the composition a more adult quality. The coolness creates a mist like sugar water mixed with absinthe. Creamy/nutty notes from the woods help to create an illusion- limes lingering upon the cleanest warmest skin, covered now in lace and powder, and lipstick but still so fresh from the bath that the odors of soap and toothpaste linger faintly in the air.

If Emeraude is the scent of a woman fresh from the shower, then Shalimar reveals that same woman later in the evening...
Shalimar is indeed somewhat shocking compared to the quietude that is Emeraude. In Shalimar everything has been amped up. The opening citrus blast is enough to peel lacquer! It's so potent that at first you suspect highly narcotic white flowers wait to ambush you but it all dissipates quickly to reveal a smoldering oriental rather than a killer flower bomb. Shalimar carries scent echos of the nightclubs of the roaring 20s... lingering smoke (and possibly you might catch the faintest traces of the sour, stale urine and worse because she had to step onto the dirty city streets) but this bombshell has returned home safe and sound. A hint of sweet lime still hovers about her delicate skin but it's mixed with tangy sweat. She is in the library now, with a warm fire. The scent of the leather furniture surrounds her, mingles with her scent - why, she is eating...vanilla ice cream! Now you are not sure if this woman is a femme fatal or a mostly innocent woman-child... I confess to prefer Shalimar to Emeraude. Yes, the tiny puffs of sour/ugly in Shalimar actually saves it from being too sweet and plainly pretty. The sourness disappears on my skin however this scent is one that really does smell differently depending on it's age, formula, your skin - everything seems to affect it. Usually you can tell after a few tries if Shalimar is going to work it's magic for you. But if it tends to go sour on you, then perhaps Emeraude will suit you better. With me, it goes too far the opposite way and develops the same too-sweet root beer note as Tabu can. While Shalimar is still produced and easy to find you have to search a little harder for Emeraude. In the US it can still be found pretty easily at several online perfume e-tailors and of course, on Ebay... but I always encourage you to get out and take a look around your town. And be sure to let me know what you think of what you find;)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Russian Leather perfumes redux

A quicky follow up on the Russian Leather post and a few newer leather perfumes- I've gotten a chance to smell the new Les Exclusives Chanel Cuir de Russie and the first thing that struck me was the very prominent green hyacinth note at the top. I will guess it is acetaldehyde phenylethyl propyl acetal- probably the wrong spelling but close enough and I can't spell check it of course! But now that I've smelt it in the modern version I detect it in the vintage extrait as well. The vintage Imerial Del Oro Russian Leather Cologne is sweet and balsamic, less floral and less complete than CdR but costs a fraction while smelling similarly rich. Imperial remains a great vintage choice for those who like a balsamic and woody leather scent that is very easy to wear.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mandel Brother Chicago Vintage Perfumes: Come to Me

Sorry for the dark grainy photo above... This is a vintage bottle of an Eau de Toilette "Come to Me". This bottle (I guess 1930's vintage) came from Mandel Brothers, a now defunct "fancy" department store in Chicago that imported and blended scents. I have seen some beautiful and usually large bottles from Mandel Bros advertised on-line usually for hundreds of dollars, with "no name" fragrances. But this bottle came to me from a friend who got it from an antiques dealer and since it's stopper had been stuck for ages, and the bottle is not spectacular she considered it trash. I figured I'd give opening it a shot since my husband has developed a pretty good technique for removing these frozen stoppers, but the stopper on this bottle has an extra long neck and the bottle had a weak small lip. So in this case we had no choice but to drill it out and extract the fluid. The scent inside? I must admit it is somewhat a disappointment- big fizzy nose-crinkling top, faint non descript soapy and spice florals and a mild amber dry down. I guess the name- Come to Me, mislead me. I expected a sweet sillage, something with Heliotrope in it or almondy. But instead, it seems a little bit of almost everything from citrus to leather to aldehydes but it seems somehow pale and wan. I may need to try it again later.

Upcoming : Shalimar vs Emerdaude

This will be an upcoming post. Octavian on 1000fragrances recently asked a question about the relationship between these two famous scents. How much did the Coty scent influence the Guerlain creation or vice-versa? I stay away from Guerlain history because there are so many better informed sources and besides, I focus mainly on the "off the beaten path" USA fragances (but I will continue to include perfumes from all over the world depending only on what I discover.) But Coty is one of my go to guys for great vintage USA perfumes. Besides, what could Mr. Coty's Emerald masterpiece add to Jacques Guerlain's inspiration for perhaps the greatest commercially produced perfume of all time- Shalimar?
So I have a slightly different mission/obsession: to figure out how (and if) the earlier "vintage" versions of each of these somewhat quirky, love em/hate em "citrus oriental" scent twins
stack up against their modern reformulated versions. I'm still testing everything out so tune in for results later this month (I hope!)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Imperial Del Oro Russian Leather Cologne

Who doesn't love a good leather scent? Russian Leather has been a personal favorite choice of late. The smell of leather has many favorable associations- horses, plush chairs and couches, new cars, old books, purses, gloves, boots, luggage... those items signify good times, days of fun, travel and the pursuit of leisure. The quintessential Russian model on the right wearing the fur and leather is Ruslana Korshunova, a young beauty who left this world mysteriously well before her time. Not as dramatic perhaps, the story of Russian Leather turns out to be quite interesting as well. The smell of good Russian leather is mellow, warm and quite soothing. Considering the aromatic components that give this type of leather its characteristic scent, it may even be the equivalent of a natural sedative... perhaps just the thing to soothe a troubled soul? Of course to those who love perfume it is not a trivial matter to consider. Perhaps nothing could have been enough in her case. But what about for us, moving through our day to day? Can the smell of leather really calm us? And where does the smell of leather come from anyway? Well, despite the name, it's not all animal! Many of the components that scent leather and create good leather notes in perfume are based on plants.

Styraciflua is a decorative tree also known as liquidamber, sweet gum, break-ankle or porcupine ball tree (if you're a kid). It drops those spiky little balls, tripping people who don't watch out. But the tree is pretty and it has traditionally been used in American folk medicine to cure everything from skin lesions to epilepsy to relieve anxiety and alleviate stress. Liquidamber trees produce a fragrant resin, once purified it is called benzoin, meaning a sweet smelling tree resin. It turns out many trees, similar, related, or not so closely related (depending on your sources) produce similar sticky secretions and they are all called benzion. These sweet tree gums have been used since antiquity in many perfumes, certainly in our Imperial Russian Leather. But Styrax is a different, confusingly similarly named tree also used in creating leather smells.
We have a California variety here, Styrax Divivus- which has a strange nick-name: the Drug Snowbell. It produces little clusters of white flowers and globular green pods. In the late summer, the Styrax tree flowers produce a pungent, secretion-like, animal-iodine scent. The flower stem oil of some Styrax are known to give a unique fleshy-leather note in some perfumes. I wonder if anyone has tried to distill that smell from our California special variety, the Drug Snowbell, yet?

(Photo: BillCasselman)
But Birch Oil is probably the most important scent ingredient that gives real Russian Leather it's characteristic smell. The bark of the birch tree peels off in papery sheets and when soaked in water/alcohol mixture, it forms a "liquor" a watery infusion. Evaporating off the water leaves an oil behind. This liquor is used in processing animal skins basically rotting everything else away, leaving a perfectly clean leather. The birch oil is also used repeatedly to soak the skins, it has a nice property enabling it to dissolve away all the putrefied components. Turns out this oil also contains high amounts of Methyl salicylate, aka oil of Wintergreen. Anyone who has ever eaten a Wintergreen Lifesaver candy knows the strong minty-peppery taste and penetrating qualities of the oil. (This next part has nothing to do with perfume, but if you never tried this as a kid: for fun, go in the bathroom, turn off the light and crunch a few Wintergreen Lifesavers in the dark. You might see something like this: As Anne Marie Helmenstine PhD, explains, the light is produced by friction, which creates a little blue spark, when table sugar - but not corn syrup- is quickly crushed. It's called triboluminescence. The light produced in this reaction is basically in the same spectrum as lightning which also looks blue if you see only a little bit of it. OK, enough of the geeky science; let's get back to the perfume...

Methyl salicylates are also produced in varying amounts by many types of plants including the heady tuberose. Some insects like the orchid bee use the Methylor other salicylates from various flowers to form their own pheromones. It is natural for man also to include salicylates in his perfumes as well and especially essential to create a Russian Leather fragrance. But the darker side of Russian Leather?

Seal oil or some similar heavy animal fat such as whale oil was also traditionally used in the process of making Russian Leather; it softened the leather and preserved it as well as its distinctive scent. Today, synthetic scent molecules and fixatives are used to produce the same rounding harmonizing effect in perfumes and spare the animal as well. As a final step in preparing actual Russian Leather, it is treated with Birch oil, Sandalwood resin and Gutta percha(yet another type of tree resin) mixture to give it increased strength and a pleasing color. But the animal fat and Gutta percha do not leave the leather yet with an acceptable smell, so a mix of benzoin, tonka beans, orris root and more sandalwood are used to sweeten its scent yet more. So finally a list of notes from which we can imaginatively build our Russian Leather cologne: white flowers (tuberose and lily of the valley), essences of birch bud oil, pine and willow tree saps, Styrax flower and benzion, sandalwood, plus a synthetic animal-like fat molecule for fixative. And something you do not see mentioned from actual Russian leather preparations but that is smelled in the cologne (and perfumes), is hesperides or citrus. In Imperial Russian Leather there seems to be a combination of fresh green bergamot and a sweeter orange note.
So even though I can't find an explicit list of notes for this vintage Russian Leather made by Imperial Del Oro, its scent likely incorporates many of the above notes. This particular blend is a very pleasing, being a smooth and strong. Russian Leather has been around for quite a while and Russian leather colognes have also been popular throughout history as well as it is mentioned so frequently. But today you will not find too many. Of course leather is present in many fragrances as a supporting member. But the opulent yet tough Russian Leather remains difficult to find. My favorite, hands down, is the most famous Russian Leather fragrance, Chanel Cuir de Russie (early 1910s). (photo from Fragrantica.com)

Thanks to Fragrantica for this great image of the modern parfum bottle. I absolutely love this scent (vintage extrait version) and I liked it even better when I tried it diluted 1:5 in the Imperial Del Oro cologne. There is a particular lovely sweet amber incense note that fires up late in the dry down of the mixture- but neither scent alone. For perfumista beginners or those on budget, you can get decants of both of these scents at the better perfume decanter sites http://www.theperfumedcourtdecants.com/ is hard to beat for their selection, quality, knowledge etc- (I hope they don't k*** my a** for naming names). Also, they may still have some affordable Russian Leathers by Demeter (the commercial house that turns out scented impersonations of everything from Altoids to Dirt) you could try. However I think even all of the Demeter Russian Leather variations are actually discontinued so finding a full bottle might not be so easy. I believe Imperial Del Oro Russian Leather was a local California product, produced into the 1970's. Don't let the potential cheesy factor keep you from trying it. This is a great vintage alternative to the more costly and harder to find Russian Leather fragrances out there. Imperial Del Oro made Russian Leather cologne, aftershave and soap.
The Imperial Del Oro verison of Russian leather is straightforward, mellow and strong. However, the scent is designed to be splashed on after shower or shave and it lingers accordingly - for several hours at least. It imparts a rich animal warmth with a candied orange glow. By itself a discreet veil or for those who like their leathers amped up a bit, a perfect base.

Post Script: I almost forgot to include another geeky bit of science related perfume trivia. The Hermit beetle, a medium (30 mm) Scarab beetle known as Osmoderma eremicola is also known as the Russian Leather Beetle because the male of the species emits a pheromone that gives it a strong smell of Russian Leather. These beetles live in Europe (except the British Isles) in old hollow trees (some never leave the tree for their entire life cycle = hermits). I've heard them referred to as "flower chompers" too, although in the wild they will reportedly eat decomposing wood as well. People do keep the females as pets, feeding them bits of sweet water and other decomposing stuff but the male beetle is the only one that makes that famous smell!

Friday, November 14, 2008

BLAZER by ANNE KLEIN Concentrated Cologne Review

Blazer by Anne Klein is in a select group of largely unsung classics of modern American perfumery; it's just under the mainstream radar but it has many fans and genuine bottles always sell quickly, when you can find it, usually at online e-tailors and EBay.
Much like its namesake, American fashion designer Anne Klein, Blazer came and was gone off the scene much too quickly. Her name and timeless design appeal continue on- you may sense or even remember when Donna Karan took over Anne Klein, after AK died from breast cancer in 1974, very young, at age 50 and certainly near the height of her power- proven by the popularity of her work as a designer and her enduring name-brand.
My life was much too humble and my style too home-grown to have any need for her Young Sophisticates line of clothing as a young girl growing up in the late 1970's. But despite my lack of a 'decent' wardrobe, I recognized Anne Klein. Originally born Hannah Golofski in the 1920's, she excelled in fashion from an early age and won several Coty awards as a young woman designer. Perhaps from her Coty connection she learned her good taste in perfumes? In any case, her three perfumes (Anne Klein I, Anne Klein II and Blazer) were all very well done and each one still has many fans. Although Helena Rubistein died almost a decade earlier (in 1965 at the age of 94!), her company had produced many perfumes from the 1930's into the 1970's and Rubinstein's company bought Blazer in or near 1974. The newer HR bottle is rounder instead of the sharp rectangular lines of the original AK version & the AK lion logo is gone. The newer HR version is simply called BLAZER. My impression is the scent is the same (but there is a price difference) and I've not sniffed the HR directly.

But BLAZER by ANNE KLEIN is a most divine green aromatic that represents an almost ideal scent. It is clean and streamlined and seems perfectly balanced, more than any other of its type that I could compare it to. As a starting point I would reference Clinique Aromatics although Clinique's fragrance is not as smooth and has a sweeter heavier patchouli base. Y (YSL), is another famous green from the 1970's that is almost the polar opposite of Blazer. If Y is green silk, Blazer is green tweed. As far as notes, not many are listed. But we know the top fragrance notes are juniper, bergamot and lavender- in addition, I smell lemon verbena, mint, clove, and especially in the base, patchouli, cedar and perhaps ambergris. The flowers are restrained and green. To my nose, geranium and marigold stand out. However, a Nell Butler copy for Chanel 22 mentions Blazer as "a clean, crispy scent with the soapiness and whiteness of Chanel 22, but pared down and less flowery." I concur it is pared down. Huge chunks of Chanel 22 - incense/leather against aldehydes, rose and iris, the sweet musky drydown have been subtracted from Blazer. What is left smells naturally clean and brisk. Blazer starts out like a tonic, juniper lavender and bergamot give it a crisp herbal and soapy start- which is followed by the clean green/white floral & spice heart. The finish is lightly green and woody.

I love Blazer; it is less mainstream but represents the same idea and time in American perfume as Charlie. Both came out just after the American feminist movement and the free love/sexual revolution. Anne Klein's streamlined tailored sensibility was not traditionally feminine and Blazer was a fairly masculine smelling perfume that fit her style clothing. Today we see a strong unisex trend in the area of fashion and especially marketing perfume as unisex, although all personal grooming habits, including piercing, tatoos, hairstyles, make-up and scent are being marketed this way more and more. Blazer was an early example of what we now are told is the older concept - fragrances that are genderless. Some compare Blazer to Charlie, a mass marketed 70's mega-hit scent with gender play in mind, but I have never been able to wear that one. Blazer is easy to wear and still smells amazingly modern to me, making it a gem of 1970's perfumery; its balance of green masculine and white feminine notes would be appropriate for work or casual day wear today, as it was 40 years ago.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Decoration Day! Vintage Lubin Idole Perfume Review...

It's been so busy lately! I've begun and delayed several new vintage perfume review posts ...and I have some fantastic recent finds that I can't wait it share with you all. But since we are celebrating Decoration Day today, I've decided to pick a vintage gem that has been resurrected (and thereby honored) by 2 new, recently released perfumes from the recently reborn and now active niche perfume house, LUBIN. I find the resurrection theme a perfect salve in this bittersweet time of remembrance and loss. But life goes on and even a vintage lovin' perfume gal's gotta work to earn a living in this world (and sometimes fight to keep her self-respect intact). And over time I've found there are some battles you can win, but some you can only loose. Right now I'm in one of those loss cycles... Regardless of the cause, loss always produces a negative- an empty space, if you will- but it also creates a postive, the opportunity to do something new with the space that opens up in our lives. Ah, well that's enough ruminating, the sun has long gone down now on today.

Getting back to perfume... Our vintage perfume du jour is IDOLE by Lubin, a French House established by Pierre-Francois Lubin as Aux Armes de France in 1798. Lubin was successful; eventually becoming an important supplier of perfumes to French Royalty. By 1853 Felix-Andre Prot succeed Lubin. The company passed onto his heirs in 1885 and by 1900 it became called Paul Prot & Cie. Lubin had an early association with Princess Borghese as well. In any case Lubin has special significance to The Vault because according to Cleopatra's Guide to Vintage Perfumes (published under EBay guides), they were the first French perfume company (or cosmetics company, perhaps?) to "solicit the North American market, aiming particularly at the plantation culture of the South."! So we have at least this report of Lubin playing an early role in exporting French perfumes into America near the beginning of the 20th century, almost certainly impacting American taste and styles. What did American women think of these creations and how did they compare to the scented products these women had traditionally worn (and commonly made for themselves- more on this to come in later posts)? In case you aren't aware of the 2007 version of IDOLE perfume, it is an Eau de Parfum, the first I'd heard of being produced under the name of (a new) Lubin. This perfume is sophisticated and sheer, a spice/gourmand-ish/leather unisex scent composed by Olivia Giacobetti. I liked it enough to buy a bottle. The blurb I found on LuckyScent (where I purchased the scent), mentions there was a previous Idole perfume, but tells us only that the new IDOLE bears no similarity with the old Idole (according to them, released in 1962). I will mention also that the modern IDOLE bottle is fantastic. Designed by Serge Mansau, it bears a resemblance to an African or maybe Easter Island type figure, complete with beaded necklace, highly stylized head cap and it resembles no other perfume bottle that I have seen yet.

But as you can see from the photograph, the vintage IDOLE had a different bottle shape entirely. But what a surprise for me when I saw the newest L de Lubin and
Nuit de Longchamp Eau de Parfums released by Lubin. You can see them at http://www.luckyscent.com/. Released in 2008, they are in the exact bottle form of the 1960's IDOLE bottle with its stylized suggestion of the corseted feminine form. The top of the vintage bottle cap, which you cannot see, has LUBIN embossed on the gold disc under the Lucite. The newer bottles have LUBIN embossed on the metal ring at the neck, while on the older one, it is plain. But enough about the bottle! What of the vintage scent; what did IDOLE smell like in 1962?
According to the vintage IDOLE perfume advertisments I found, this perfume was touted as tres, tres, tres feminin, for those who "aime passionnement".

In short, and you would predict this if you have read Tom Robbins [partly hilarious and partly preachy] Jitterbug Perfume, it smells of Jasmine. A lot of jasmine. And that first hit ain't sanitized! It's a dirty jasmine and one with a little sharpness, which the sharp part seems to be mostly due to hyper- lily of the valley type of notes. It smells of really strong jasmine oils, for I can almost smell gasoline notes in it. And the dirty part, I read as having a strong, fishy undertone. But I wonder if this could have been so animal and frank , like it appears here to me? Were our noses more accepting of raw smells 45 years ago, that this IDOLE would been accepted, even sought out as a seductive offering back then? I'm picturing an archytypical 70's scene: Hair- the musical... with everyone's hair here, there and everywhere, a lot longer and well, maybe less groomed...

Moving on from that image... there is a vintage Jasmine soap by Jovan I think it was made with Tunisian Jasmine, that has this exact same type of gaseous, "on-steroids" type of effect. For me, it is a bit of a pushy scent, especially at first. Maybe a bit needy and attention seeking, too. But there are maybe some interesting parts as well, if you can stick around until things mellow out... Do I imagine notes of a savory green herb or slightly sour lime tucked in between the overly ripe, almost rotting blossoms? Over time, I must admit it becomes softer, easier to wear perhaps, more like an interesting fur and jasmine mix. But it's never for a moment sweet, or fresh or uncomplicated. And even though I usually do not particularly admire freshness in jasmine (or floral, in general). I really do appreciate it's fruity jammy side- for me it opens up a much more luxurious, nectar aspect of the flower. Ultimately, I have no list of notes for the 1962 IDOLE and so I may never guess the full nature of this scent, because when I found it (there is not much left, as you can see), it had partially spilled into a cardboard box and what was left in the bottle had a texture and appearance of cool honey, or thick high grade motor oil- thick and gooey, clear pale amber in color. This particular bottle has been in my collection a long while and it may possibly have begun to partially break down as well, as it seems also a bit thinner and maybe a bit more orange over time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Coty Imprevu

Today we have a daring vintage Coty- Imprevu. Notes are scarce to find but this is a beautiful Chypre scent that would be a smash among a certain set that prefer serious, stunningly made perfumes with decidedly adult and edgy ideas presented. This chypre feline has claws, more lithe cat woman in a skin-tight leather suit than little kitten with a collar. The whole affair

kicks off with an initial kiss of bergamot bitter orange and candied citron; in piquant contrast is a mildly tannic leather note that is delicious. This traditional cologne quickly deepens as coniferous resins, young cedar shoots and shady oakmoss come into play giving it a deep and foresty but also grassy and sappy feel. The florals are restrained, a sharpish soapy/creamy carnation and not much else I can detect provides a perfect back drop for the dramatic multi-tonal pallet of greens.

And beneath this sophisticated emerald array we are left with a sublimely adult dry down of extremely discreet clove and tobacco with a touch of musks. This could be an every day signature fragrance for the right woman- I picture a beautiful bohemian girl, like a young Sophia Loren. She wears no shoes and drinks wine from an old mason jar while exploring ancient gardens with her lover on the lost weekends she steals away from the world. The rest of the time she wears high heels diamonds and fur and rides in her benefactor's chaufered limosine. Her perfume is Imprevu.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Andalusia by Toujenais, gran reserva

Today's vintage pick: Andalusia Eau de Parfum. The name refers to Andalusia, Spain. Andalusia is a large area that encompasses all of southern Spain. Seville is it's capitol. Cardiz, another large city is located along the water. The region is steeped in history. A legend tells that Hannibal was reduced to tears when he was forced from the city and its treasures centuries ago. The area is famous for its many world class culinary treasures as well.
The only information I find about this perfume is this very evocative name. Toujenais, from the box, I assume is the maker. The bottle indicates it was manufactured in Los Angeles and since nothing else is indicated, the perfume may also hail from local California sources (that fulfills my fantasies but given the quality I smell, who was blending and bottling small batches of fine perfumes in LA in the '50's??). But many times, essences are imported from France and other sources that could be blended anywhere, by some local producer/distributer. The bottle even has a patent number but the print is thick and smudged. Given the abbreviation "Cal." instead of the modern "Ca.", I am guessing it is circa 1950's or 1960's.
When I opened this bottle there was a thick paper seal that yielded the slightest pop. The perfume itself brought a smile to my face on first inhale. Nice and sunny and full... I had feared the scent might have gone flat or would have the ugly and cheap smelling oily base I detect in many decaying vintage American scents (especially Avon perfumes). Well, no need to worry there. It is lovely stuff. Definitly vintage but good. I've been a bit uncharacteristically butter fingered lately and I spilled a bit of both this perfume in the process of sniffing. At least it landed on top of an unsealed oak desk, which has soaked up a good deal of the scent.

Andalusia opens with a sumptuous sunny orange and sun drenched orange blossoms and jasmine. It recalls Joy very well especially early on as I detect sweet rose and lilly of valley join in the classic smooth blend- but it's rounded or tamped by the woody addition of subtle oak notes. It is easy to imagine there are Andalusian oaks and groves of Seville oranges warming in the sun. There is a slight metallic note I detect several times for brief flashes and cooler violet shadows open up spaces in the scent. The florals soon tip their petals to the side to reveal gentle puffs of something underneath the flowers, a hair/skin note, which is slightly dirty like unwashed hair and then grows steadily more musky. At this point, the scent begins to pick up distinct salty and buttery tones. At first I was surprised. But considering this is the area famous for Ibezian ham, and the pigs are feed acorns to impart a nutty flavor to the meat, it makes sense. The effect is more of a nutty effluvium with a sweeter dessert-like side than a bar-b-que thanks to the gentle notes of chamomile tea, almonds and honey that begin to weave in and out and harmonize with the richness, recalling after dinner amarguillos (almond macaroons) and Manzanilla. Soon the skin notes are replaced by skin that is now cleaner, soapy even but still it it never looses its salty and musky undertone. As the scent mellows out, there are only traces of musk and jasmine remaining of the earlier symphony, now overlain with beeswax and powder, which seems a perfectly natural end for the lazy and sumptuous parade of flavors- the musterion that is this Andalusia.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

First Post ~ the blush of youth?

It's a little intimidating really- making one's first post. The vintage scent I've selected for this auspicious occasion is .... Estée Lauder's Youth Dew. This was an easy pick for me. It's an American classic that has achieved iconic status. You might think at first, that if you found them, you would keep all of the wonderful "rare" vintage perfumes but ultimately you can't. Not if you're going to be into perfumes for any length of time. Imagine what you'd accumulate in 10 or 15 or 20 or more years! Eventually, we must all admit that novelty is big part of the story of an attraction between a perfume and a girl or boy. And it's fun to hunt. I've already given more space over to bottles than I want, and they are fragile and precious. So they live in dark, cool places shut away like prisoners. It's not right. Eventually, it will be wasted spoiled, spilt, broken, forgotten or lost. My solution is this- first, I'm going to start documenting them. Photographs and reviews. And then, I'm going to get rid of them. Not in a big rush, just one by one as I find new, I will release the older ones I've tired of playing with or looking at. I hope there are a few more vintage perfume lovers out there, who might enjoy this venture also. Have patience though, for I will only post once or twice a week, unless I'm on vacation.. But in any case, all are welcome and the tone will be strictly informal. Lauder's Youth Dew is so mainstream, so old school, maybe it is also too old fashioned? Well, Lauder herself surely wasn't. No, she was ahead of her time, a true pioneer. And what about her most well known perfume? The story I know is that Youth Dew was a perfume designed to appeal to women, not men, who traditionally bought perfumes for women, so they would buy YD for themselves. Today we have the right hand ring, back then women made the same statement with perfume, apparently.

My own mother, a natural beauty, shunned artifical adornment. There are perfumes I know she wore at key points (White Shoulders, L'Air du Temps, Bellodgia) but the perfume I remember best from my youth was Youth Dew. It wasn't hers. It belonged to my Gran-Loo, (Grandmother Louise thank you very much!). She was a grand lady, a real 1920's - 30's party girl, and a vixen I'm quite certain. Let me tell you, she loved perfume! Chanel, Caron and Norell bottles sat enthroned like precious jewels upon her dresser. But Youth Dew was different. For one thing, it's as black as coffee. And it never really lost it's roots as a bath oil. Looking at it as a child I felt it was probably some awful psuedo-medical toilet item, as appealing as an old crusted shaving mug. And the scent, to my tender young nose, was nothing more than a blast of bitter burning spices- no sweetness, no light. So from then on, I avoided anything in the familiar bottle. Since then, nothing ever really make me give it a second thought. When I found the bottle you see pictured above- um, I was smitten. The glass poppy topped stopper hinted at sweet narcotic depths hidden within the murky waters. No one would design something so beautiful for anything that wasn't divine. The glass is frosted and smooth. It begs to be held and touched. And the highly polished hand cut sides reveal an intimate view of the juice within.

So now I had a reason to explore Youth Dew. I had a reason to stare and dab and consider, to ponder, to assimilate and finally to conquer, wearing it as if it was the latest release from some niche French perfume house. And guess what? It really is that good. The swoon came to me incredibly easy. They say and it may be true, you have to be of a certain age to fully get this perfume. The bottle is labeled "Original Youth Dew' and I feel it may be perfume or a very high concentration oil, possibly the vintage bath oil version (it is oily). It smells sweet but not in a fruity way. In fact, my husband proclaimed it smelled like candy (a shocker- with him, usually it's soap or powder). He must like spicy complex candy, because a plain Jane this aint. It hits me like a heavenly blast of balsamic spicy resins, cool rather than warm at first with dry, almost chalky nuances. (I love any chalk, powder or pollen type effect in a perfume.) It seems linear but in the dry down it just keeps getting sweeter, honey sweet. I haven't gotten to looking up any notes but it is not really a floral scent. If I had to pick what type of flowers are in there, I would think it must have heliotrope and the chalk. There is amber warmth at the end and what could be orris- I say because it has a slightly bitter woodiness. Sometimes I associate that chalk quality to orris. It becomes a fabulous skin scent by then. Also, it turns exquist if you are smelling it on a smoker. Youth Dew over the roasted tobacco residue left on finger tips...

There were at least two early varients, an extreme type, Cinnabar and a little seen "soft" version with less warm spice and more animal base maybe taking away the edge that made orginal Youth Dew so successful.