Author Archives: Tara

Galop d’ Hermes

Notes: Saffron, Quince, Rose, Osmanthus, Leather and Musks

 

Christina Nagel’s Twilly was chic with just right amount of quirk and her additions to the Hermessence line have been stellar, with my particular favourite being the radiant jasmine, Cedre Sambac. The oils are exquisite and if I had the budget, I’d purchase Musc Pallida in a heartbeat. The 2016 release of Galop continued the trend and lies somewhere between the two in terms of availability and price point.

Val the Cookie Queen fell hard for Galop and kindly gifted me with a large decant last winter. I’ve nearly drained it.

Let’s start by taking a look at that fabulous stirrup bottle…

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Galop has a very striking olfactory colour palette. To my mind it’s petal pink and saffron orange.  It is only available in Parfum concentration which, of course, has excellent lasting power but also retains a transparency that is very much in the classic style of the previous in-house perfumer, Jean Claude Ellena.

I never tire of the saffron, quince and rose accord. It’s masterfully crafted with no facet being out of kilter. The tart quince counters the sweetness of the rose and the savoury saffron bathes the whole composition in golden light.  It just sings. The saffron has a substantial presence but it’s not as pungent as it can be. I’m generally fond of it as a note but can find it overwhelming. Here it is perfectly pitched, gloriously bright and full but not too spicy.

The rose heart is pure pink, softly sweet and very pretty. It’s poles apart from a dark, sultry red rose. There is also a mouth-watering, juicy fruitiness which I imagine is coming from peachy osmanthus.

Hermes started making riding acoutremonts and so there is often a nod to leather in their fragrances. It’s present here but to my nose it’s more like blush suede.

Galop has just the right amount of tension between sweet and sour and this makes it moreish.

One perfume that I constantly turn to during spring/summer is Vaara by Penhaligon’s. It has a similar saffron/quince/rose combination but a lot lighter (EdP strength) and lacks any leather. Where Vaara dries done to a soft rose, Galop’s development doesn’t have any clear demarcations. The saffron merely becomes calmer and creamier.

It’s a fragrance I pick up in a hurry with the confidence that it always feels right. I can see Galop being the same only on a whole other level of elegance, complexity and quality.

I’ll have to content myself with the Penhaligon’s fragrance until I have the funds for the Hermes.

 

galop horse

Do you like saffron in fragrances? Have you tried Galop?

 

 

 

 

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Reading Diary May/June 2019

I used to regularly read literary fiction, often reading books that had won prizes or were lauded by The Literary Review. My success rate wasn’t great. I DNFed The Line of Beauty and The Corrections. I was baffled as to the fuss over The Life of Pi and Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. The end of Atonement ended me. Then it dawned on me that these books are often written by – and to impress – literary types. They sometimes mess around with the form, can be snobby and tend to favour a depressing ending. It felt like they were more concerned with showing off than providing people (like me) with a good read. So I more or less gave up on them and retreated into genre fiction. I’m trying not to rule them out  anymore and gradually dipping my toe back in does make me appreciate the quality of their writing.

 

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters Trilogy Book One) by Juliet Marillier

“We draw our strength from the great oaks of the forest. As they take their nourishment from the soil, and from the rains that feed the soil, so we find our courage in the pattern of living things around us. They stand through storm and tempest. They grow and renew themselves. Like a grove of young oaks, we remain strong.”

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When I told my friend about Daughter of the Forest she said she immediately knew it was my kind of book. The funny thing is that as I read it I kept thinking of Liz Moore of Papillon Perfumes to the point where I had to tell her about it. This was because the story is set 10th Century Ireland when many people still revered the nature spirits and honoured their festivals. The descritpions of the forest are lush and there re many references to flora and fauna. basically if Dryad were a book, it would Daugher of the Froest. As to the plot, it releved about young Sorcha who has a deep mystic connection to the forest. When her six brothers are cursed by a wicked stepmother the Fair Folk tell her what she must do to free them. This sets on her path that is more arduous than she could possible imainge but she is also finds kindess along the way. My only issue was it dragged a little towards the end of its 500+ pages and this put me off going straight on to Book Two in the trilogy but hopefully I’ll come to back it.  4/5 (Contains scenes of serious sexual assault.)

 

The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt

“Some of us are fated to live in a box from which there is only temporary release. We of the damned-up spirits, of the thwarted feelings, of the blocked hearts, and the pent-up thoughts, we who long to blast out, flood forth in a torrent of rage or joy or even madness, but there is nowhere for us to go, nowhere in the world because no one will have us as we are, and there is nothing to do except to embrace the secret pleasures of our sublimations…”

A couple of reading Diaries ago there was a lot of enthusiasm in the comments fo the nvels of Siri Hustvedt. I looked at her back catalogue and while not the highest rated, this was the one that appealed to me. It’s about a poet in her mid-fities who has an episode of psychosis after her husband puts there marriage on pause to pursue a relationship with a co-worker. We meet Mia after she’s left the hospital and retreated to her small home town for the summer. Here she takes on a summer poetry class for adolesecent girls at the local school and visits her mother daily at her retirement complex.  We follow the interactions between her mother’s friends “The Swans” and the group of girls who indulge in the all too familiar prepubescent pastime of singling out the most ‘different’ for subtle and not-so-subtle ridicule. It’s a study in female relationships (and to a lesser extent, relationships between men and women) but it’s also about the varied ways women are constrained. Hustvedt is clearly a fiercely intelligent woman and though I’m not keen on narrators who drop in phrases in a foreign languages and talk directly to the reader, it was an accessible literary read overall. The small town setting and limited time span kept it intimate. I warmed to Mia immediately and eventually managed to get in sync with the slow pace and just enjoy it for what it was.  3/5

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Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

“When something was strange, everyone thought they had the right to come stomping in all over your life to figure out why. I found that arrogant and infuriating, not to mention a pain in the neck. Sometimes I even wanted to hit them with a shovel to shut them up, like I did that time in elementary school. But I recalled how upset my sister had been when I’d casually mentioned this to her before and kept my mouth shut.”

There has been quite a buzz around this book with some even calling it the Japanese Eleanor Oliphant. Keiko like Eleanor, is socially inept but to a much greater degree. She has so little empathy, she appears to be sociopathic. At school she learns the best way to get by in life is to keep quiet. From there she gets a job at a convenience store and finds her true north. The store provides reassuring predictably and a role to perform. In fact she mimics the other employees in voice and dress to appear like ‘a normal person’. Keiko stays at the store for 18 years at which point she feels the pressure from those around her to make some kind of change in her life. Unlike Eleanor, there is no trauma beneath it all to make sense of her strangeness and allow the reader to empathise with her, but that’s kind of the point. No one is comfortable with her living an unconventional life even though she is perfectly content with it. A quick, quirky and engaging read. 4/5

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Villette by Charlotte Bronte

“The negation of severe suffering was the nearest approach to happiness I expected to know. Besides, I seemed to hold two lives – the life of thought, and that of reality.”

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Jane Eyre is one of my favourite classics and so it makes me sad that Millenials often dislike it because they focus on the ‘problematic’ relationship with Mr Rochester rather than Jane’s incredible strength of character. When looking to get back into reading classics, I chose this much lesser known work which was Charlotte’s final novel. There are echoes of Jane Eyre with Lucy Snowe being a friendless introvert who is trying to survive in the world after a history of tragedy. Jane Eyre isn’t especially likeable but Miss Snowe is hard to warm to. I grew to understand and empathise with her however. She is the way she is as the result of her past and her circumstances. She is fearful that the rug could be pulled from under her at any point and is constantly steeling herself for disappointment. It’s a bleak book but that was Charlotte’s experience of life and I feel a kind of kinship with her. It isn’t an easy read, not least because I don’t speak French and there is untranslated dialogue throughout. 3/5

 

Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

“Your parents warn you about the monsters you might encounter in dark alleyways, but they never warn you about the monsters you might find in your own mind, the ones that taunt and trouble you, and make you question yourself to your very core.”

Bryony Gordon is a journalist who wrote a best-selling memoir The Wrong Knickers about her wild twenties . What she never mentioned in that book and what she explores here, is her longstanding mental health issues.  She battles an eating disorder, depression and OCD – not the ‘tidy sock drawer’ type of OCD but the kind which makes her believe she is a serial killing paedophile.  While it’s hard going through the world feeling you are not enough, it’s equally hard feeling you’re too much: too loud, too open, too greedy, too sexual, too much. Her story is sometimes heart-breaking but often hilarious. She can appreciate the absurdity and selfishness of her younger self and acknowledges that she was often simultaneously having a great time as a columnist for The Telegraph. 3/5

 

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How has your reading been this last month or two?

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Boxwalla Perfume Box

I’ve mentioned before that my friend and ex-perfume blogger, Lavanya, started the hugely successful box subscription service, Boxwalla. There are Book, Film, Food and (green) Beauty Boxes. It had to only be a matter of time, but there is now a one-off Perfume Box.

The perfumes are from LA-based Sigil Scent and are inspired by alchemy and nature. They are all-natural EDPs composed by perfumer Patrick Kelly.

Sigil is a revival of old magic—a primal mysticism that transcends traditional gendered fragrances to cultivate both the masculine and feminine within you.

The two-phase concept is a great idea. The first box contains four 2ml samples which gives you time to test and decide which one you’d like to receive a full bottle of in the second box.

Lavanya kindly gifted me the first box and here are my impressions: –

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Solutio

Key notes: Cypriol, labdanum, chaparral tincture, cypress

‘Solutio’ is the alchemical practice of purification and dissolution. The perfume is a fizzy herbal green with a bracing, almost menthol feel at first. It settles down to a citrus aromatic blend which feels like strolling on a Greek island in the sunshine. The resinous, woody base prolongs its longevity.
Anima Mundi

Key notes: Immortelle, hinoki, rose, jasmine

Anima Mundi ‘world soul’ combines creamy, heady florals with smooth hinoki wood and caramelised smokiness. It’s an uncommon scent with a lot of contrast and texture: A deep throated, spicy floral with a substantial immortelle base. I struggle with that final note but if you love it, this could be the one for you.

Amor Fati

Key notes: Oud, galbanum, palo santo, opoponax

‘Amor Fati’ represents the belief that all the highs and lows of life are essential to the cyclical beauty of our existence. What a reassuring philosophy. The perfume is an unusual mix of smoky opoponax and resinous galbanum. The oud definitely doesn’t dominate. It‘s grounding and head-clearing with the scent of incense in the air and pine needles underfoot.

Prima Materia

Key notes: Vetiver, Oakmoss, Neroli, White Sage

In ancient times, ‘prima materia’ referred to the formless root of all matter—a blend of stars and soil, from which all things emerge. This fragrance unites bright neroli and white sage to represent the stars, and oakmoss and vetiver to represent the earth. It’s a cleansing, herbal-tinged chypre with a bright, tart edge and a murky vetiver base.

Before sampling them all I thought Prima Materia would be my favourite but in the end I’d choose Amor Fati for my full bottle which shows the system works. Not everyone is drawn to natural perfumery but there are no worries of poor lasting power here. Those that have a love of essential oils and aromatherapy blends are likely to find them immensely soothing to the senses.

If you’re based in the US and are interested in the Perfume Box you can find out more here.

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Bengale Rouge by Papillon Perfumes

Notes: Turkish Rose, Orris, Sandalwood, Tonka, Oakmoss, Honey, Vanilla, Labdanum, Benzoin and Sweet Myrrh

All of the Papillon perfumes handmade by Liz Moores are a product of her loves, life and home. Take her last fragrance Dryad released in 2017, which was a homage to the ancient forest she lives in.

It seems fitting therefore that her next launch is inspired by her beloved Bengal cat, Mimi. These leopard-coated felines are incredibly striking and have a quirky nature all their own. Have you noticed how many perfume people are also cat people? A lot.

The first thing I thought of when encountering the opening of Bengale Rouge was Guerlain’s classic Shalimar with a strong orange citrus edge. I picked up that same grown-up vanilla only with more of a whipped texture and a rosy bloom, permeated by resins.

It stops short of being an edible gourmand. Sweet perfumes are something I struggle with these days but here the honeyed tones are undercut with plenty of doughy iris, tree resins and rambling roses.

bengale rouge bottle

Bengale Rouge isn’t just about a cat but a combination of the cat and its perfume-wearing human. Have no doubt, this is a fully fleshed out fragrance and a million miles away from a novelty ‘Cat Fur’ scent. The presence of orris butter adds a fantastic skin-like property and a cosmetic/boudoir facet. I don’t find it overtly sexy but it has a ‘back of the neck’ warmth: a kind of intimate vulnerability. I think this is the key to Bengale Rouge. It manages to calm the nerves while feeling subtly sensual.
The base is chiefly labdanum which has an amber aroma and a cosy, furry feel.

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The fine balance achieved here can’t have been easy but the vanilla has been leavened enough for it to work effortlessly within this multi-faceted structure that is refined while exuding a pleasing amount of langour.

Bengale Rouge doesn’t have an animalic growl but purrs ever so softly. Liz tells me that this Eau de Parfum actually verges on Extrait strength so that it clings to the skin like a caress and doesn’t let go. Unreserved spraying is a must to enjoy the full effect.

I tend to wear Dryad in the spring and Tobacco Rose in the autumn (or the evening). Bengale Rouge is Papillon’s most versatile and accessible fragrance to date. It would wear comfortably at any time without feeling in the least bit sloppy. Unlike most vanilla-forward fragrances, it is beautifully constructed with plenty of interest.

Liz felt that Bengale Rouge was the kind of perfume we needed to counteract the bleakness that exists in the world right now. It gives us something soothing to hold close while we hope for better times further down the road.

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Do you feel the need for a comforting scent like this to wrap yourself up in?

First two photo credits: Liz Moores

Last photo: Gemma Ward/Vogue Paris

N.B. Liz was kind enough to send me an advance sample of Bengale Rouge. Fingers crossed they will be available to order by July.

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Lustre by Hiram Green

“Life is golden” – Hiram Green

 

Notes: Bulgarian Rose, Citrus, Orris and Olibanum

 

Hiram Green’s strikingly dark and moody Hyde recently won the Artisan Perfume Award at the Art & Olfaction Awards in Amsterdam. It was the worthiest of winners. Hiram is an uncommon talent using naturals to create compositions of great sophistication and complexity.

At Esxence this year he surprised everyone by unveiling a brand new rose soliflore: Lustre.

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However stunning a rose perfume may be, it rarely smells like the real thing. Lustre does. It’s the pure perfume you get when you poke your nose into the heart of the open flower. We had a rose garden when I was growing up and it’s a joy to find this scent captured so beautifully: A true bottled rose.  Not to say that this is a simplistic natural concoction. It is an expertly crafted, well-rounded, fine fragrance.

The sweet scent of the Bulgarian rose is there (of course) but it is edged with citrus tartness. There is something lemony about the scent of real roses and it’s present here, most notably in the opening.

From looking at the notes you may expect to find prominent iris and incense.  I can clearly pick up on the resinous tones of olibanum if I get in close and sometimes I sense iris powder. However, the supporting accords are chiefly working together behind the scenes to create this vivid illusion of a rose in full bloom. Somehow Hiram found a way to do this without relying heavily on tried and tested  materials like patchouli, geranium or vetiver. 

Where Hyde is night, Lustre is day. It is a fresh summer rose bathed in golden sunlight, as heat begins to warm the petals and releases its scent.  Its radiance is a pleasure in itself and it takes a considerable amount of time to die down completely. It encompasses the flower’s multi-faceted aroma and makes it seem as if one has suddenly bloomed somewhere close by.

Lustre proves how a linear soliflore can retain your attention. It’s captivating when a fragrance unfolds on the skin and develops in distinct stages, moving through head, heart and base. But then a perfume will come along to remind me that blanket preferences can’t be set in stone. Lustre is rose, rose, rose and I don’t tire of it because of its depth and beauty. The intrigue is vertical, rather than horizontal. You can reach down, layer after layer, petal after petal and experience a world of rose in a single inhalation.

 

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Do you like the idea of a sunlit garden rose?

 

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Vanilla Collection Winner!

Last week I covered a Meet the Perfumers event at Les Senteurs featuring Sylvaine Delacourte Paris and offered her Vanilla Collection sample set in a giveaway.

Random.org has declared the winner to be:

Vanessa

Congratulations Vanessa! Hope you enjoy discovering the set.

 

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Meet the Perfumers: Photo Essay

Last Wednesday evening London niche perfumerie Les Senteurs held another wonderful ‘Meet The Perfumers’ event . This was a chance to hear from Jeroen Oude Sogtoen and Fredrik Dalman from Mona di Orio, Margaret Mangan and Meabh McCurtin from Cloon Keen Atelier and Sylvaine Delacourte of Sylvaine Delacourte Paris.

Sylvaine, Fredrik, Jeroen and Margaret

I was looking forward to hearing more about Mona di Orio because it’s a house I admire and have followed for a long time. I still remember the stir the release of their oud caused in 2011. Jeroen mentioned that it is still his personal favourite from the line. He started the house in 2004 with Mona and has ensured its output has retained its luxury quality and unique approach to familiar materials.

My favourite from Mona di Orio is the last release Santal Nabataea (you can read my review here) so it was great to hear Swedish perfumer Fredrik Dalman tell us the story behind it. He said that although there have been many sandalwood fragrances over the years, they have often taken a similar path and many feature a kind of figgy top note. He decided to base his in the ancient city of Petra which is a magical place to him. He took inspiration from the effect the sun creates when it hits the sandstone. He used a crackle of black pepper in the top to add to the mineral facet and coffee for the base to give it a dusty texture.

It’s an outstanding piece of work.

Perfumer Fredrik Dalman

Personally, what I love most about Santal Nabataea is the presence of olibanum that pervades the whole composition. It’s a must-try for incense fans and is in my top three.

There was a discussion about the state of the perfume industry and what lay ahead. Jeroen told us that when he goes to perfume fairs these days he’s amazed when there’s another huge crop of new niche brands. People tell him niche is over but he feels that it’s really just begun. It has made him want to show what niche really is; something to “blow your hair off”. He was questioned about what this meant – perhaps something more extreme? He replied that it was more about originality than going to extremes. Sylvaine made the point that perfumes still have to be something you’d want to wear. As one of the attendees commented “No-one wants to smell like a concept”.

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There was a general feeling that the story of the perfume was getting lost in large retail outlets like department stores or niche chain stores. Jeroen did say he was looking at scaling down the number of places their perfumes would be sold in the future so that connection can be restored. His has a new ‘linear’ collection but isn’t ready to share it with the world just yet.

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Cloon Keen is an Irish house co-founded by Margaret Mangan nearly 20 years ago. Their fragrances are very much a reflection of Ireland’s rich history, traditions and landscape. Based in Galway, the fragrances feel as if they’ve been infused with the clean, fresh air of the Atlantic coast.

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Margaret Mangan and perfumer Meabh McCurtin

We tried their latest release La Bealtaine which is named after the Irish May Day festival. Margaret told us that it mean a lot to her to be able to work with an Irish perfumer, Meabh McCurtin of IFF in Paris. La Bealtaine is a bright and innocent blossom-laden composition with a sheer feel. It features notes of bergamot, mandarin, neroli, pink pepper, angelica, jasmine, rose, tuberose, cedarwood, patchouli, amber, musk and cashmeran.

Margaret said she’d like to create a fragrance inspired by an Aran sweater one day. While we found this amusing, James Craven said they’ve had requests for something similar at Les Senteurs.

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Castana with its unusual burnt chestnut accord was given 5 stars by Luca Turin

Sylvaine Delacourte was Perfume Creative Director at Guerlain for 15 years. She created over 70 fragrances including Insolance, L’Instant, Oriental Brulant and Gourmand Coquin. She recalled how La Petite Robe Noire caused a little controversy at the time of its release because Chanel had always been known for the ‘Little Black Dress’.

Her time at Guerlain taught her the importance of quality materials and that a scent doesn’t need to be perfect; in fact it should have flaws. She also learnt that a perfume needs to possess a strong identity, noting that while people may like or dislike Insolence, it is recognisable in moments.

However the marketing regime at Guerlain got her down in the end, with the relentless churning out of flanker after flanker after flanker.

Her favourites from other lines include Lipstick Rose and Musc Ravageur from Frederic Malle (the latter partly because it was done by her friend, Maurice Roucel, the perfumer for Insolence). She’s also a fan of Prada’s Infusion d’Iris and has long loved Guerlain’s classic L’Heure Bleue.

The incredibly chic Sylvaine and a beatific Nick Gilbert

Sylvaine launched her own brand in 2017 which currently includes two collections based around a particular raw material.

The Vanilla Collection features natural Madagascan vanilla interpreted in five different ways: spicy – Vangelis, sunny – Vanori, fresh – Valkyrie, aromatic – Virgile and floral – Vahina.

Vahina: a fantastically lush floral on a bed of vanilla.

I love the use of coloured yarn to convey the mood and drydown of the fragrances.

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Dovana from the Musk Collection (tender musk)

If you’d like to win a sample set of the Vanilla Collection by Sylvaine Delacourte Paris please let me know in the comments and I’ll do a draw on Friday and announce the winner next Monday.

Have you tried any of the fragrances from these brands? Any stand-outs for you?

What do you think of the current state and future prospects of niche?

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Reading Diary Spring 19

Most days I watch BookTube, which is shorthand for the world of book review channels on YouTube.  Regular features usually include monthly wrap-ups, TBRs (books To Be Read) and reading vlogs. These people read in excess of 100 a books a year but once you let go of any inadequacy this may bring up, it’s an entertaining way to get recommendations.  This is YouTube so there are a lot of young people on there only reading YA so you may need to hunt a bit to find someone that clicks wit you. If you’re interested, try putting one of your favourite books into the Search box to find channels that may suit your tastes.

Like our own fumiverse, it’s generally a very warm and welcoming community.

Now, here is my own meagre selection of books read over the last month and a half or so…

 

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”

I knew very little about Norse mythology so felt rather intimidated by this book. I needn’t have been. Neil Gaiman makes it extremely accessible by telling these tales in the form of short stories with a fair amount of humour. He was fascinated by these myths as a boy and I can see why because they mostly revolve around the adventures of the Gods Odin, Thor and Loki. I would have liked to know more about the Goddesses but they are mostly bit players who are usually treated as bargaining chips (not that I’m blaming that on Gaiman of course). The story I was really taken with was the final one concerning Ragnarok – the Norse version of Armageddon – which was gripping. Overall though, Norse Mythology didn’t capture my heart and make me want to seek out more, like the Greek myths, but it was an enjoyable read and I was very happy to expand my knowledge of them. 3.5/5

 

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The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Why couldn’t everything smell of warm fur and saltwater and fresh seaweed popping in the fire? Then the world would be perfect.

I tore through this book. Probably because it contains a lot of my favourite things in literature: lyrical writing, interesting female protagonists,  a circus, queerness, a fairytale-like world and heaps of atmosphere. In The Gracekeepers the planet has become mostly submerged by water which, over time, has caused a divide between ‘damplings’ who live on the sea and ‘landlockers’ who live on the few remaining archipelagoes. North lives and works on a circus ship while Callanish is a gracekeeper; someone who performs burials at sea. Both young women are isolated (one physically but both emotionally) and they both have something they want to keep secret. I was totally absorbed by the story which was inspired in part by Scottish myths and folklore. 5/5

 

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The Nakano Thrift Store by Hiromi Kawakami

“There are plenty of people in the world I don’t dislike, some of whom I almost like; on the other hand, I almost hate some of those whom I don’t dislike, too. But how many people did I truly love?”

I wanted to read more Japanese fiction after loving Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. This has a touch of the melancholy of that book but there are many amusing moments throughout. Hiromi is a young woman working in The Nakano Thrift Store in Tokyo. The story follows her interactions with the eccentric owner, colleagues and customers. It’s not a page-turner but I was captivated by Hiromi’s endearingly awkward relationship with co-worker, Takeo. After a violent childhood incident, Takeo finds it hard to connect with people while Hiromi struggles to navigate her own emotions. There is no grand plot and it was a bit too slow-moving for me at times, but the quirkiness and insights into Japanese daily life and culture kept me interested. A solid 3/5

 

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Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,”

I came to this book through other personal growth books I’ve been reading of late from Self-Compassion by Kristen Neff to Frazzled by Ruby Wax. It seemed complementary because its concept combines self-compassion with mindfulness. It also has a grounding in Buddhism. Tara Brach is a clinical psychologist and meditation teacher, so the book includes many client case studies (a few too many for me) and guided mediations. While this didn’t have the impact on me that Neff’s book did, it was soothing and reinforced the need for me not berate myself for not being able to push myself as hard as others in areas where I struggle. The introduction to lovingkindness meditation was also beneficial as I incorporated it into my own practice.  3.5/5

 

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What have you been reading this spring? Any recommendations?

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Nuit de Bakelite by Naomi Goodsir

“…the sound of latex when several stalks of tuberose tangle…” – Naomi Goodsir website

Notes: Angelica, Violet Leaf, Galbanum, Orris, Karo Karounde, Tuberose, Leather, Davana, Styrax, Tobacco, Labdanum and Gaiac Wood

When I attended the Art & Olfaction Awards last spring, I was really pleased when Naomi Goodsir won an award for Best Indie Perfume with Nuit de Bakelite. I admire her whole line which is full of modern, striking perfumes that stand out in a sea of niche mediocrity.

All the Naomi Goodsir fragrances are inspired by materials and textures. The wonderful Iris Cendré is orris ashes,  Cuir Velours is a leather glove, while Bois d’Ascese was inspired by a wooden church in a blazing forest.

The Aussie designer collects objects made of Bakelite, the first man-made plastic.  When she tasked perfumer Isabelle Doyen with creating a perfume inspired by it, the result  (released in 2017) was compelling and extremely clever. It’s taken me forever to corral my thoughts about it.

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First things first, Nuit de Bakelite is primarily a green perfume with tuberose lurking in in the dark heart of its foliage. So if you haven’t tried it already, kindly forget any ideas of creamy, blousy concoctions like Fracas.

Perhaps galbanum with its powerful, sharp scent of chlorophyll, is one of the few materials that could push tuberose into a supporting role. It wraps huge, rubbery leaves around that fleshy flower, emphasising its green and gummy facets to the nth degree. There are whiffs of earthiness, tobacco and vinyl fumes. This is where the natural world and the synthetic collide.

It has a kinship with the green chypres of the past – only catapulted into a futuristic urban jungle. It certainly shares their fearless nature, but it’s also lush and exotic in a photoreal, exaggerated way. Everything is bigger and brighter than usual.  It feels alive and buzzing with intensity.

There is only a subtle shifting in emphasis as it develops. The tuberose comes more to light as the fierce green opening recedes a little and then, after a number of hours, the presence of tobacco is much more noticeable.

Nuit de Bakelite fascinates me even if it’s not something I would wear myself. There is a hypnotic, addictive quality to it but no indoles to my nose. It possesses nuclear longevity and has exceptional throw. Portia once gave me a card sprayed with it and the next day I could smell it the moment walked into the room where I’d left it.

It is a uniquely arresting fragrance but never anything less than supremely stylish.

 

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Have you tried this most memorable of fragrances?

 

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Violet Ida by Miller Harris

Notes: Bergamot, Carrot Seed, Orris Butter, Heliotrope, Vanilla and Amber

 

When I first heard about the recent Miller Harris release Violet Ida from The Candy Perfume Boy, it sounded like it had my name written all over it. This is because I have a deep affection for fragrances that are reminiscent of old-fashioned make-up.  Examples of this style include Chanel’s Misia, Malle’s Lipstick Rose and L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Drole de Rose. Basically anything that smells like the inside of a vintage hand-bag.

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Despite being called Violet Ida, this is actually an iris perfume. It’s named after a heroine from a Graham Greene novel, Ida Arnold, who wears violets in her hair. The name conjures the retro feel of the fragrance rather than its contents, given that violets make most people think of the scents of a bygone era.

“…she took care of herself, her lipstick told you that, the confidence of her big body. She was well covered but she wasn’t careless; she kept her lines for those that cared about lines.” – Extract from Brighton Rock

There’s a squeeze of fresh bergamot on opening but the iris is right there front and centre, gloriously rich and velvety. The scent of heliotrope makes its presence known as a sweet Play-Doh aroma. It’s not a note I get along with but I appreciate it works here, employing playfulness to break iris’s cool composure.

The powdery texture of Violet Ida is pivotal to its character. It’s a feather-soft cloud over warm skin, possessing that dressing table haze of cold cream, waxy lipstick and face compacts. What I particularly appreciate about it is that where most perfumes in this vein rely on a rose/violet combination to create the cosmetic effect, the main focus here is on iris. This makes it stand out from the crowd and ups the quality quotient considerably.

While some boudoir perfumes have a hint of something naughty in the mix, Violet Ida is entirely innocent. Its gentle nature may not project far but it does last well, progressing to a fluffy crème brûlée base.

For me, Violet Ida evokes the Ziegfeld Follies movies from the 30s and 40s which I watched on TV as a child with my mother. The studied glamour of those heavily made-up and elaborately costumed women parading down staircases may seem faintly ridiculous now, but it made a lasting impression on me.

It feels good to indulge in a spot of harmless nostalgia now and again.

 

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How do you feel about perfumes that mimic cosmetics? Any favourites?

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