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.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Givenchy Organza and Chanel 22

It's been quite a while since I've had time or desire to post on anything. My animus towards vintage perfumes hasn't really diminished; my time and energy has just been focused in other directions. I don't intend to hold myself silent for the entire duration of this MEd program, but there might not be much in the way of regular posting until next summer, except during holidays. It's Fall Break this week and even so we've been living on the air conditioner until a sudden and welcomed cool down today.
Today I had a sudden craving for vintage Chanel No. 22- perfume. It's a favorite of mine although usually I just scrimp and wear the vintage 1970's EDT spray version. If you know it, you'll know I'm not really scrimping. One spray takes it as far as you'd want to go, which even in this heat is from morning to overnight and into the shower the next morning. But after wearing it a couple of times recently, today I decided I'd wear a little of the actual vintage parfum instead. Off I went in search of the coffret in which it sits along with it's siblings: Bois De Iles, Cuir De Russie and No 5. I removed the dainty oval crystal stopper and dabbed; as it settled in, the old magic returned. In this little vial the incense and vanilla of Madame Coco's true genius of a numbered fragrance have happily married the aldehydes have quieted down a bit. And it strikes me that there is something very similar between this Chanel creation and Givenchy's original Organza.
You see, I've been smelling Organza a lot lately. We've just purchased an older home in the country- the sort I've always imagined, by the way, but the point is that we bought it from a lovely lady from Spain, named Silvia. Now Silvia reminds me of what a world war II movie star would look like today, tottering on tiny high heels, surrounded by a cloud of blonde hair, long eyelashes and a generally regal bearing. From the first moment I met her, I thought she smelled really wonderful... very elegant and refined but maybe with a little hint of bombshell, too.

Generally I'm a little shy to ask new people about perfumes, but I really wanted to know what she was wearing. It was just like when you catch just a little bit of a melody when you're not really expecting it-suddenly I couldn't place a familiar scent. So finally I asked her what she was wearing and she replied, "Oh, something my husband bought for me; it's all I ever wear... it's by Givenchy... Organza, I think." But now I realize when she said it, I was expecting her to tell me it was No 22! Maybe other people have noticed the resemblance but I never did before. I even went home and discovered it's the sandalwood. I think. Sandalwood isn't something that hits you over the head with No 22 but over time I realize it's the thing that draws my nose back into the coat or scarf after I've put away after wearing it... Now I have another sleath sandal perfume to add in my arsenal, cloaked in a fine, but rich harmony of orientalized florals, just the way I tend to like them!

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