Archive for April, 2017

Last May I started thinking about an idea that I call “the retrograde files“.  It came as a little brainstorm about taking the time when Mercury is retrograde (an astrological phase that makes it look like the planet Mercury is sliding backward in its orbit when seen from Earth) to look back at projects that I haven’t completed, perfumes that I once launched but for what ever reason decided to discontinue, and the like, and to consider re-imagining.  Thus, using the ‘energy of the times’ to good advantage and taking what was good and making it better, clearer, and ultimately new again.  (Art, if nothing else, is recycling and filtering inspiration through one’s unique lens and the exact time and space it’s created in).  So as Mercury has gone into its retrograde phase I started looking through what is now a surprisingly growing section of my notebook.


Passionflower Perfume Poems was a small collection that I started releasing around 1999 – 2000 with a young, ‘millennial’ audience in mind.  It never quite hit the target the way I wanted it to… although a few of the perfumes have lived on in the form of special orders and requests by devoted clients who have loved the perfumes as their signatures for the past – wow – almost 20 years.   Lately the requests have come in with more frequency and something sparked: these Passionflower Perfume Poems scents seemed to be the perfect first candidates for inclusion in the retrograde files.


Say hello to April.

I didn’t rework this design too much, as it’s fans would be pretty bummed if I’d changed it a ton.  I did add some cool, humid notes via some molecules that I didn’t have in my studio c.2000, like cyclal-c and cucumber aldehyde.  It’s just as fresh and lively as the first design but with an additional pump up of the sweet pea and the green clover notes.  I’m really enjoying the energy of April with its clean but not soapy freshness and soft fruity-floralcy.  Fruity-florals aren’t usually of great interest to me (maybe that’s why I missed the mark with my first attempt at a ‘youth’ collection) but this one is fresh, green, and ‘unsweet’ enough for a more grown up audience and to keep me coming back for more.  I hope you like it and the other two heading your way this Spring. ❤


I thought I’d share one of the original stream-of-consciousness poems that went with the original launch.  I still think they’re fun:

April (poem)
green    clear    soft    white    frosty    dew  •  ethereal    morning    fresh  •  delicate    blossom    dawn    breath

emerge     enlighten     evolve  •   imagine     breezy    serenity     rain   •   shining     meadow     flowers    dream

sublime    veils    smiling   senses  •   relax    renew    refresh  •  awaken   cherish    clean    bright    light   pools

glistening    shower    sweetness  •   invite    pure    beauty    april    be    spring


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I left off in conversation about Fleuriste, and it’s cool, florist’s fridge effect as something made possible by the modern miracle of aroma molecules.  Now, in part 2, I find myself stepping back…not just in time and space (sort of)  but also taking a half step back toward classicism and warmth in the next carnation design.

With l’Opera des Rouges et des Roses, I didn’t set out to create a new carnation fragrance as if I was inspired and found the need for this fragrance.  Well, I did realize that it fulfilled a need in my range that I didn’t really have which was a garden bouquet perfume that featured carnation, roses, peonies, and jasmine.  One of the things I love about this design is that it flickers and flirts between hot and cold, fresh and lush until the final drydown stage where it just belts out an aria and dares you not to give a standing ovation.  It has PRESENCE.  At least that’s how *I* experience it…you might feel differently about it.

“l’Opera” as I refer to it in my studio was a fragrance born out an art project / installation project for Denver Art Museum’s “In Bloom” show of 2015, which ultimately was called the “scent experience”.  The idea was to create a fragrant room that would evoke the experience of walking into Monet’s garden at Giverny.  What came together was an amazing kind of aromatic sculpture that was ever shifting in the balance of the fragrance since the design was developed in three pieces that when blended together created the whole.  To make this sculpture ‘moveable’, the fragrant ‘pieces’ were sensor driven, so that as people moved through the space they would trip the sensor to send out more of the fragrance in their area.  Depending on where you walked, you would smell something somewhat different in the room, as in a real garden.  Pretty cool, right?   As I worked out the designs, it came together as a kind of timeline as well as a way to experience the actual fragrances of the flowers.  So, the initial scent was the smell of moist dirt, foliage, grass, and trees with green leaves with a faint whiff of flowers, but none you could put your finger on (Le Jardin Vert); the next was a cool, early morning/ early Spring bouquet of dewy violets, irises, and lilacs (La Danse des Bleus et des Violettes).  Lastly, came the warm, afternoon / late Spring bouquet of peonies, old roses, carnations, and jasmine (l’Opera des Rouges et des Roses).  I wanted to give the sense of time passing from morning through the afternoon as well as early Spring to late Spring.  (Monet had a LOT of flowers in his vast gardens and I wanted to showcase many of the flowers depicted in the show…so it was a tall order of many flowers).  I think that the space was a success and I haven’t heard of many other museums creating as memorable, creative, or daring additions to shows that might have come off as rather staid without it.

The design for “l’Opera” has become a perfume with many lovers in its own right; not just as a piece in the design that became “Giverny in Bloom” which is the ‘complete’ experience.  As a carnation perfume it has some references to Bellodgia de Caron as its focal is the carnation and rose duet.  As it is meant to be a garden perfume, l’Opera seems fresh when compared side to side with Bellodgia (extrait).  The required aldehydes and more powdery drydown of Bellodgia make it seem more ‘constructed’ than l’Opera.  But I can see how Bellodgia is the great-aunt of l’Opera, with the need to be dramatic, and still a love interest.  Bellodgia is the belle of the ball waltzing about in crinoline and pearls, whereas l’Opera may have a wilder heart; a love child made of the garden of eden and the theatre.

At first, I hadn’t planned on more than one carnation fragrance but you know how it goes… the creative urge knows no bounds, and so another idea begat another, etc.  While “l’Opera” is a bouquet and not a soliflore, I still think of it as a carnation and rose affair.  What ultimately completed my needs (and my clients’, I think) was last year’s duskier and darker addition to the lineup.  But that’s for the next post.

* the images used were taken by me at the Denver Art Museum’s “In Bloom” show in 2015.



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I have been in love with carnation perfumes since I started making perfumes (almost) 26 years ago.  At that time, way back when, the notion of making a carnation soliflore was very old-fashioned, and I was most interested in using it to create spiced woody oriental designs; very dry, VERY spicy and less floral than a bridge from the pimento / clove / pepper topnotes to the sandalwood / cedar / patchouli / frankincense in the base.  I still love those early scents…the ones that if you add a bit of bergamot and mandarin, they turn slightly tea-like or mix in some amber you’ll expand the depth of the woods.  But when I started growing the actual flowers in my garden the sense of carnations as florals more than spice came alive. And I started considering, why isn’t anyone making a carnation soliflore?  These blooms are so warm, sensuous, and frankly, delicious.  So, I set out to make my first back in 1997.

Of course, I started to research the historical background of carnation perfumes and found there were many more famous fragrances in that line than the densely carnation oriental that was most close to my “coming of age”, YSL’s Opium, and the Grand Dame of vintage carnation perfumes, Caron’s Bellodgia.  Two very popular carnation perfumes from yesteryear are Blue Carnation, from Roger et Gallet is a fragrance worn by Queen Elizabeth (apparently now only made for her), as well as the now discontinued Malmaison by Floris (we’ll get back to this one).  Francois Coty’s Oeillet France was in production for the first part of the 20th century and many lesser brands had their “Carnation” perfumes.  (Cardinal comes to mind as a brand that sold many soliflores in sets with carnation being among their best sellers).


Some things I’ve noticed about the earlier carnation perfumes is the almost prerequisite use of aldehydes, and more of a bouquet design with a carnation focal note more so than a straight soliflore.  Of course, after Chanel no.5, a straight-forward soliflore would have seemed utterly passé and the same can be said of any perfume without aldehydes… it wouldn’t have been ‘modern’.  Both Bellodgia and Blue Carnation have this kind of ‘outline’ to their design.  What’s fascinating when thinking about how these types of designs, at the time of their creation, were meant to be modern and very ‘new’, they are the epitome of vintage, retro, and even classical from our vantage point.  I considered this when I started creating my own carnation designs, and my first was meant to be a true soliflore, in that I wanted to make a fragrance that smelled as realistically like the red carnations that I grew in my own garden, and very little else.  The perfume still had to have structure and so, of course, there are notes that uphold the focal gem of CARNATION in a setting meant to keep you focused on the gemstone itself.  In Oeillets Rouges, the setting is a simple topnote of bergamot and hints of spice (nutmeg, green peppercorn, and clove) and a base note of beeswax, ambergris, and vanilla.  These setting notes are mild and subtle never overtaking the carnation heart.  To my mind, this is classical in a pre-Chanel no.5 sense; a more Edwardian sensibility with the quest for natural-ness that the late 1990’s had great interest in.

Juxtapose Oeillets Rouges with a much more recent creation, Fleuriste, which came out just a few years ago.  I decided to make Fleuriste after years of people really getting excited about Oeillets Rouges (just the fact that I had a real carnation perfume made some people ecstatic) and I saw that the interest in carnation perfumes was on the upswing in general.  I also wanted to work on a really modern idea for a carnation perfume that came to me after smelling JAR’s Golconda for myself and hearing people’s reaction to it’s beauty.  The thing that I heard again and again about Golconda (besides the exorbitant pricetag) was the kind of cold / “florist’s fridge effect” that was so interesting about it.  This chilled topnote construction was what struck me about Golconda’s modernity and I wanted to see what I could do around that.


“Smell-o-cules”, as one of my wonderful students calls them, are the modern perfumer’s dream as they can help construct out of this world ideas that don’t occur in nature.  Or even if they do, it’s difficult to get the parts that you want without having to also take parts that you don’t.  it’s this leap into man-made molecules that made the ‘chilled rose leaf’ accord possible.  Leaf alcohol does naturally occur (and I have used the natural / isolated molecule in some lovely natural perfumes) but in Fleuriste I used the man-made version along with some captive molecules from Givco (aka Givaudan Corporation) to give me a delicious, refrigerated flowers feel to the very opening.  And this is where the reference to Golconda stops.  I took a turn here to reference another great icon of 20th Century perfumes, realigning the structure of Diorissimo (by the great Edmond Roudnitska) to focus on the lilac – carnation underpinnings and pushing the lily of the valley and other greens to the back.  This with added spices helped tremendously when trying to construct a new carnation that had the sheer modern / cold topnote and still felt like ‘carnation’ which has spice and warmth afterall.

Fleuriste did all that I hoped for and more.  It’s become almost as beloved as Oeillets Rouges, and helped inspire the next two in my trilogy of recent carnation releases.  But for now, I’ll end here.  I’ll be back for more on the state of the {car}nations soon.

and ps: Happy Spring!!

pps: Well this is exciting!  The links to reviews that I wanted share have magically materialized thanks to some wonderful friends (and authors!)
Here’s Ida Meister’s review for Fragrantica.com and her amazing “Scented Snippets” column; and Cynthis Lesiuk’s take on Fleuriste for her lovely blog, “The Fragrant Journey”.  Thanks so much sweethearts! ❤


images: my own carnation digital collage; Oeillets France de Coty from the Artscent Museum collection; and exaggerated pinks bouquet in my painting studio.

*** Kleptomania moment :: Confession:  I stole the title from a blog I’ve been reading and thought  that it was so clever that I had to use it.  I hope it’s ok.




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