Monday, April 5, 2021

Perfume Collection (partial)

 A glimpse of the ongoing madness...

It doesn't seem to ebb. This probably 1/5 of the collection. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Baruti Onder de Linde: fragrance review

 Exploring the Baruti line, a niche collection by Greek perfumer Spyros Drosopoulos, based in the Netherlands, I found myself transfixed by Onder de Linde, which roughly translates from the Dutch as "under the linden trees." (Sounds dreamy, doesn't it?)

This extrait de parfum has a way of speaking of blue skies and honeyed blossoms in a modern, totally unexpected way, as the floralcy does not arise till halfway in the heart notes. It might be that it came right when we were facing a very ominous winter, with the hope of spring far in the air, so this promise of joy and uplifting optimism was a much needed glimpse of a better future. It acts like an anti-depressant, almost, on a weary soul. It's honeyed, but restrained in the sweetness, not veering into gourmand territory at any rate. It's neither powdery, which many fragrances in this genre tend to fall into, especially ones which couple the heliotropin and aubepine molecules into mimosa notes that embrace lindens. It's soft like a feather, enduring like the faith of youth in itself.

The brand implies added notes of pear and lilac, which I do not detect per se (and I do love lilacs), but the effect is nothing short of a magical late spring, early summer morning when the birds are chirping and you're on to the love rendezvous you've been awaiting all your life, or – more prosaically – the career step you've always hoped for. It's that joyous, honestly. 

With the assistance of Madeleine Hillen (perfumer's assistant and lab manager) and Maria Chetskaya (brand manager), Baruti is going forward, plunging into the demanding niche sector, where you have to put your money where your mouth is to survive among hundreds of companies building their portfolio of scents day by day, year by year. It's clear they're destined for a bright future!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Smell of Books

 That wonderful rich smell of books, old or new, with that inherent variation ingrained, which lures seekers of knowledge since at least the time of Egyptian papyrii. Bibliosmia is actually a word, found in the Macmillan dictionary, although not exactly officially sanctioned, but pending its acceptance.

via pinterest
Recenty Powell's and Demeter tried to convey that with the word "biblichor", a play on the scientific, yet poetic, word petrichor, for the scent that erupts from the rock and the soil after the rain. The suffix ichor (borrowed directly from the Greek ιχώρ) means "the blood of the gods", and honestly I could not think of a better word to convey the magical properties that a good book can convey. 

Scent must be at the heart of the following statistic by the UK Reading Habits survey conducted in 2015, which showed that 71% of respondents didn’t use e-books at all, and 76% preferred the traditional book to its electronic equivalent. Holding a book is a multi sensorial experience, with touch being the second best aspect of it; just imagine rolling your fingers over the exceptionally smooth pages of a glossy coffee table book with big pictures, contrasting with the slightly grainy surface of an old paperback you picked up at the very last minute at an airport to pass the time during a long and boring flight... 

Like with many things, the scent is embracing death and decay, as contradicting as that sounds. Perfumephiles have long known, through exposure to their hobby, that a certain degree of death is a necessary component of any potent and poignant blend. Flowers wilting into the fat of enfleurage, a traditional method of extracting precious oils, are slowly dying in front of the perfumer's eyes; essences mimicking the genital regions' scent of animals, prized in perfumery for centuries, inadvertently recall that the animals will not be reproduced after all. 

Bibliosmia is therefore also caused by the chemical breakdown of compounds within the paper, which give a sweetish smell, both figuratively and literally, thanks to the preponderance of vanillin in the final outcome. The slow death of the book, eroding through time, sometimes a very long time, is accountable for the bettering of the smell the longer the book sits. Paper contains cellulose and lignin (a polymer of aromatic alcohols, accounting for the yellowing of the pages as well). This breaks down to vanillin and turns sweet and enticing. Older books also contain other chemicals nevertheless, including benzaldehyde (the smell of almonds), furfural (also almondy), ethyl hexanaol (faintly floral), toluene (a sweetish smell), and ethyl benzene (sweet as well). The older the book, the more lignin it contains, and the stronger the scent. 

New books on the other hand hold the aroma of adhesives, paper, and modern ink as well. The smell of the Xerox room is unmistakable, due to the odor of the inks and petrochemicals. Modern binding adhesives can be based on co-polymers, one example of which is vinyl acetate ethylene, while the treatment of the paper with chemicals, although odorless to begin with, results in various reactions within which produce varied results via the emergence of volatile organic compounds. 

Chemicals such as sodium hydroxide, commonly known as ‘caustic soda’, can be added to increase the pH of the paper pulp and cause fibers to swell. These are then bleached with hydrogen peroxide, among other solubles, and mixed with large amounts of water. This water is also full of additives which modify the properties of the paper, such as alkyl ketene dimer which aids in making the paper somewhat water resistant. Newer paper has undergone processing to remove lignin, but cellulose breaks down all the same in newer books as it does in old, so the aroma is there, if somewhat different. 

 On the whole there is a dearth of scientific research on what exactly makes "new book smell", which I hope to be amended in the following years.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Diptyque Fleur de Peau: fragrance review

The Diptyque story began in 1961 Paris at 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain with, at its heart, three friends driven by the same creative passion, who chose a Greek word which means a dual panel painting. Illustration was the very core of the founders, as Christiane Gautrot was an interior designer, Desmond Knox-Leet, a painter, and Yves Coueslant, a theater director and set designer. From then on, inspired by their Hellenic treks along the Greek peninsula and its mountainous terrain, and from their country cottage on the picturesque Mount Pelion, buried amidst thick fig trees all the way down the sea front, they launched several classics, from Virgilio to Philosykos


But the brand also presents a later day constellation of contemporary stars, like Eau Duelle and 34 Boulevard St.Germain. Picking just one is an Herculean task. The most sensual in the current rotation however is an easy choice. None other than Fleur de Peau. 

 Fleur de Peau relies on that rarity of the "musky idea": it harnesses the vegetal musks from angelica archangelica and ambrette seed oil, flanking them with ambrettolide, a macrocyclic musk which shares properties with ambrette seed and aids diffusion and lasting power. Thus the somewhat nutty, with a hint of berry, slightly sweaty and oddly metallic fusion of the properties in those fine musks gains the upper hand and makes Fleur de Peau very sensuous. 

Backed up with classic starchy iris, and carrot seed, which aids the earthy, starchy effect, it creates a cocoon of scent on the skin; it's as if the Platonic idea of sensuality has landed on our shores. The delicacy of vegetal musk with the central chord of pink pepper and rose recalls the refinement of Les Exclusifs de Chanel No 18 Chanel, and Musc Nomade Annick Goutal, two other fragrances with ambrette seed oil tucked into their heart of hearts. A quiet sensuality that does not plunge its décolleté low.


via pinterest amodelmoment

Fleur de Peau is soft, tenacious, with a discreet but perceptible sillage, radiant and glorious indeed. One of the better launches by Diptyque in recent years.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Aquolina Pink Sugar: fragrance review

The infamous cotton candy note (candyfloss, for those in the UK) lies at the heart of Aquolina's Pink Sugar (2003), and the fragrance made the chord mega-popular. It was cheerful and chirpingly cheap. It was bound to set the world ablaze.

The story of ethyl maltol goes back several decades actually. As chemist M.Yodov writes, "In 1861, a specific compound was extracted from larch bark (back then it was called laxirinic acid), and in 1894 it was identified by a group of Munich chemists, they named it maltol. Later it was confirmed that maltol plays a significant role in the aroma of fresh bread, coffee, roasted chicory, and some conifers. In its pure form, maltol has a caramel smell with fruity nuances of jam. At the beginning of the 1940s, maltol was produced on an industrial scale, but it was the flavor industry that first took an interest in the compound, since it turned out to be very useful in the reconstruction of a variety of flavors – from soups and ketchup (50-100 parts per million) to all kinds of confectionery (up to 3300 ppm).

Maltol has been produced under different trade marks, like for example Corps Praline. In 1962, Pfizer trademarked the name Veltol. Maltol was then obtained from kojic acid,  [...] In the late 60s, Pfizer introduced a new product, Veltol Plus. Replacing the methyl substituent with ethyl in the maltol molecule (by replacing formaldehyde with acetaldehyde during one of its synthesis steps), they reached a substance that smelled 4-6 times more intense – the same cotton candy, but with a more pronounced fruity strawberry aspect and less burnt".

The fragrant impression in Pink Sugar is an intense and persistent throughout strawberry caramel chord, licorice, and there’s another note they might be going for...toasted marshmallow? Whatever. It's the scent of a yummy confection, perfect for an afternoon at the Ferris wheel with 14-year-olds, to make you feel like a 14 year old yourself. If you're so inclined, that is.

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