Monday, April 23, 2018

The Smell of War: Beyond No Mand's Land

Writing about chemical warfare and its smells doesn't come easy. The prompt was a quote I came across in a letter to Siegfried Sassoon, just a month before his death in November 1918, written by Wilfred Owen: ‘My senses are charred.” The European terrains of World War I (1914-1918) were the fields where the olfactory terror of warfare consolidated itself on a large scale. It was unquestionably during World War I that modern chemical warfare began.

The significance of the toxic gasses' odor is not highlighted enough. The psychological effect of smell on the brain is documented and it often was the anticipation of suffering produced by the alerting odor of toxic fumes which wreaked havoc with the soldiers' psyche.

"Lieutenant Colonel S.L. Cummins, consultant pathologist with the British army in France, concluded that all divisions that were continuously exposed to chemical attack showed a significant drop in morale. The medical officer Charles Wilson was even more emphatic in ensuring that most of the men that had been gassed were frankly left in shock. By 1915, after studying its effects, the English had concluded that although they had not been designed to sow terror, the violent sensation of suffocation caused by chlorine and phosgene undermined the will of even the most determined soldiers. In fact, the mere rumor of a chemical attack even had an effect on troops that had not been previously gassed." [source]

Having being composed two years before the break of WWI, Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue is probably the most iconic perfume of the -by 1914- lost forever Belle Epoque era. The Great War saw the end of that all right.

Please read the rest of my article on Fragrantica. It revolves around the smells of warfare and associations the mind creates in times of terror with references to WWI and the Russian Revolution.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

In Memoriam: Hubert de Givenchy 1927-2018

Heaven will be richer with Givenchy joining the ranks and meeting up with his favorite muse Audrey Hepburn...

A true noble man Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy founded The House of Givenchy in 1952 after stints as designer at Jacques Fath, Robert Piguet, and Lucien Lelong. Interestingly enough, the lineage goes back to Italian roots (Venice) but he embodied French chic like very few designers ever have. The perfumes line will be fondly remembered.

Here on PerfumeShrine we have written about Givenchy and reviewed the following fragrances of the line:

Givenchy Ysatis fragrance review and history
Givenchy Le De Givenchy fragrance review and history
 Givenchy Ange our Demon fragrance review
Givenchy Eau de Vetyver: the history of a classic vetiver scent
 Givenchy Amarige: a tuberose of drama

Let's play tribute to the iconic designer. Which Givenchy fragrance is your favorite and why? Please share it in the comments. 


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Scents for a Good Hair Day: Is it Advisable to Spray Perfume in Your Hair?

Hair scenting has been a big trend for a few seasons now, eschewing the matter of potential allergens, since hair can't react, and providing formulae that won't dry out delicate hair cuticles like alcohol-based products such as eau de toilette or eau de parfum does. As the company claims, "a blend of moisturizing oils provide a veil of fragrance and subtle shine".

Hair Mist is a form of fragrance product that has been gaining in popularity for a reason. Hair mists in several fragrance lines are a wonderful and relatively newer product that can be applied on the hair without damage. They typically contain water, added scent, soluble silicones and emulsifiers and little else, so they bypass the main culprit of a regular bottle of eau de toilette or eau de perfume, namely alcohol. They come in the form of spray mists that can be directly applied on the hair or on the brush and they impart a light veil which holds its scent for more than a couple of hours.

There are several companies and brands that have invested in this market and I have some recommendations to make accordingly.

Tocca has come out with 5 scents for their Hair Mists: Florence (floral with violet), Cleopatra (ambery spicy), Colette (fresh citrus with juniper and musk), Liliana (fresh peachy neroli and gardenia) and Stella (refreshing freesia and lily with musk). The bottles look as cute, or even cuter than the actual eaux de toilette and the scents project credibly, if subtler.

White Moss Nourishing Hair Perfume by Acca Kappa was formulated to envelop the hair in a pleasant, delicate scent while at the same time contributing to its beauty. According to Acca Kappa, it “contains a hydrolyzed corn, wheat and soy protein complex chosen for its hydrating and nourishing action. The organic green tea and red grape vine extracts help protect the hair against damage caused by external aggressors. The fresh white moss scent will leave your hair pleasantly fragranced.”

The offerings in Thierry Mugler Angel and Narciso Rodriguez For Her are particularly caring and they smell very nice indeed. In the case of Angel, in fact, this is probably the very best way to carry this powerhouse of a scent; the hair product retains the wonderful gourmand and patchouli qualities without overpowering anyone in the vicinity.

Chanel is another company who regularly offers hair mist products and those come in a variety of fragrances: No.5, Chance and Chance Eau Tendre are available in hair mists as we speak and they come in beautiful bottles that adorn the dresser at a relatively lower price point; good news if you want some Chanel but are budget-restrained. There is also the dedicated Balmain Hair Perfume (shown above) which is a separate product that is constructed to be a scent that adapts well to use in hair, although the promise of a fragrance is probably a bit too much considering the simpler peachy nuance that recalls hair products. 

Dior's J'adore Hair Mist is another good product, retaining the characteristic bouquet of the eau de parfum, as is Miss Dior Parfum pour les Cheveux. Byredo Blanche Hair Perfume is a great long lasting option of warm clean musks, and Carnal Flower Hair Mist by Frederic Malle is the supremely indulgent option, great for those loving the green fresh tuberose scent and wanting to be surrounded by it all day long! Frederic Malle has recently also issued Portrait of a Lady in a Hair Mist formula; the gorgeous combination of rose, patchouli and incense rests on a bed of smoky amber that makes a deep impression and creates an intense mystery.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Serge Lutens Chergui: Hay Heaven-Fragrance Review

Oddly enough, though I love both orientals and Serge Lutens fragrances on the whole, both of which I own a rather significant collection, I rarely reach for Chergui. I attribute this to its not finding it challenging enough or wistful enough; Lutens fragrances in particular either lure me with their pensive, introspective mode (Iris Silver Mist, Douce Amere, L'Orpheline and La Myrrhe...) or with their exultation of taking a chosen artistic direction to its natural apex (Fleurs d'oranger, El Attarine, Arabie, Sarrasins and Tubereuse Criminelle...). Chergui nevertheless enjoys the kind of popularity that makes me revisit it at disjointed timeposts...when something new and terrifying lies in the horizon or when I'm particularly congratulatory of a penitent interval.

Lutens promises the exoticism of the east with Chergui (ascending from the name onwards...) but delivers a quite restrained composition that is not too challenging. It melds with the skin and complements it, plus it's mildly sweet (very popular with modern audiences) and subtly powdery like a greige sweater that's comfy enough to hide one's melancholia behind.

The Lutensian story behind the fragrance is certainly highly visual:

"A fire fanned by the wind, a desert in flames. As if bursting from the earth, Chergui, a desert wind, creates an effect that involves suction more than blowing, carrying plants, insects and twigs along in an inescapable ascent. Its full, persistent gusts crystallize shrubs, bushes and berries, which proceed to scorch, shrivel up and pay a final ransom in saps, resins and juices. Night falls on a still-smoldering memory, making way for the fragrant, ambery and candied aromas by the alchemist that is Chergui."

The facet which is dominating on my skin is the coumarin (what we refer to as mown hay). Indeed hay absolute plays a prominent role in the composition, but it's still pertinent to stress that on my skin Chergui by Lutens is not a pipe tobacco dream oriental with masculine proclivities as sometimes described, but a cuddly roll in the hay that sticks on you for long after the deed. It's soft and warm and lasts for a full 48 hours, which is quite impressive and a good recommendation for people who have longevity issues with fragrances in general.

It has been remarked upon before but the shift from the rather medicinal opening (in the older formula) into the fluffier hay core is a point of tension. It's the one and major change that happens in a fragrance that remains mostly linear on my skin. Still it presents its own "a ha!" moment.

Chergui by Serge Lutens is dry, befitting the name but at once lush and dense, and it brings to mind a certain opacity to the proceedings which is typical for most Lutens fragrances, which could be easily attributed to an oriental character; even the florals! Chergui is redolent of oil paintings by Dutch masters, somber yet textured, and as if you can taste it. I find this a quality that resonates with Lutens buyers and therefore Chergui is probably a safe purchase.

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