Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass

Taking advantage of every day this week, I stopped by one of my favorite haunts and picked up a bottle of Elizabeth Arden's famous and much maligned perfume Blue Grass. Created sometimes around 1934 or 1936, the perfumer is George Fuchs (of Fragonard). Blue Grass was created in order to celebrate the scent of the grassy pasture fields where Arden bred her famous Thoroughbreds. To backtrack only a bit, Florence Graham (EA's given name) is somewhat a woman after my own heart. Short of stature- barely 5 feet tall, and fond of pink in her real life unlike the more famous red she used so prominently in her salons, she sought always to appear as youthful as possible, eschewing gray hair for a reliable honey blonde and dressing in sometimes outrageously girlish get-ups whenever she could construct an excuse to do so. I find it especially endearing that she insisted her beauty products be lavished on her horses.

Needless to say EA fascinates me, especially in regards to her well known rivalry with another hero of mine, the incomparable Helena Rubinstein. But today I am interested only in setting the record straight on Blue Grass. The bottle I found is not a long lost vintage treasure- I have run across those, too, but for the most part, the vintage BG I've found hasn't aged well, unlike our dear EA... Most examples I've come across are compressed, sour and smell terribly off. The older powder and occasionally the scented bath gel versions I find seem to hold up much better. But this isn't a problem because contrary to other online commenters, I do not find the newer version of BG lacking at all. According to the bottle I have, it is made in France and bottled through EA London.

And how does it smell? Well to me, it has exactly the smell I would hope for- cool and green, sublimely subtle and finishing off with a powdery velvet-ness similar to the feel of horse nuzzling your palm. To analyze it more in depth, I will say the lavender and jasmine are especially prominent on it's opening and these have been woven together in an herbal, juicy fruity and crisp green combination that seems to be so, so difficult to get just right in a perfume. I attribute it's true grassy character to a sweet (versus smokey) vetiver, backed up by a touch of cedar. The cooling powdery feel lingers throughout, I believe because the lavender matches perfectly to the vetiver and cedar, although none of these notes is allowed to come out too fully. All of it is held in check by a judicious blend of florals, so that the aforementioned jasmine, along with lily of the valley, rose and carnation do not play heavy roles, either. There is a definite citrus open thanks to neroli, bergamot boosted by geranium, aldehydes and orange blossom. One source adds laurel to the list of notes and I'm included to agree to it, playing wonderfully well with the cool herbal notes of lavender and sweet grass.

This scent improves with time although I find it wearable from the first. While it is cleaner than many scents I love, to my nose it has nothing in common with the new breed of clean. Instead, I can see it as a child of the 70's fitting in with the other soft green scents that dominated during that time (and that seem now impossible). Many people are ansmotic to some smells, perhaps this somehow plays in reverse as well. Possibly I can smell something most people miss in this newer formulation, or I miss something they smell, because it still smells classically balanced and well made. Perhaps that is what leads me into an easy love of a scent that so many decry? There really isn't any telling, without doing a live in person group sniffathon, which given my geographic location and schedule, is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Actually, it matters not because I'm going to take it just as it comes and wear my Blue Grass with enthusiasm.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.


moi said...

I received a bottle as a gift in high school and I can just about conjure up the smell, if I don't try and "look at it" too directly. I recall something very pretty and distinctive, in which powder, lily of the valley, and carnation mostly came through to my nose. Thanks for the memory!

Amelia said...

I think you've gotten right to the heart of it and it sounds like Blue Grass loved being worn by you!