Luxury (and Perfume)

Fabergé Oeuf Tsarskoye Selo Empereur Rosé

If you believe the ads that line magazines this time of year, you think luxury is all about David Yurman necklaces, new Manhattan penthouses, and celebrity-fronted perfume. Someone dressed in Ralph Lauren, waving her Rolex-adorned and Dolce Gabanna-spritzed arm from her new BMW is at the seat of luxury, right?

Not so fast. Although any of those things can be luxurious, often they’re not. I think luxury is eating a perfect poached egg or having a cup of good coffee with an old friend or marveling at the body heat left in your blankets as you make the bed. Luxury is the fragrance that calms or inspires or dares. Real luxury evokes wonder, if you pay attention. It doesn’t have to cost a cent (although in the case of perfume, sadly, it does), and it’s rarely advertised in magazines…

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Aftelier Chocolate Saffron Body Oil ~ body product review

Aftelier Chocolate Saffron Body Oil

Call it a Christmas Miracle, but last week at a reading by Mandy Aftel at Cacao in Portland (Portlandia fans snicker here),1 I won a bottle of Aftelier Chocolate Saffron Body Oil and Hair Elixir in a raffle. A Cacao employee proffered a deep ceramic cylinder for Aftel to dig in for names. She grasped one card, but it slipped away. I held my breath. She grasped another and lifted it from the cylinder. It was me! Friends, this never happens. I had the choice of a chocolate parfum or the body oil. Fragrance is wonderful, and although the parfum would have made a delightful choice, let’s face it: daily body products are often more important than the occasional dab of perfume. Especially in winter, when skin can be so dry.

The Aftelier Chocolate Saffron Body Oil comes in a tall, rectangular glass 100 ml pump bottle with a cap. Its notes are chocolate, saffron and ylang ylang. Aftel says that it’s one of the oldest things she makes and continues to make…

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Perfume to Weather the Holidays

Tis the Season

Oh, I know the holidays are about “joy” and “giving” and blah blah blah. At the risk of sounding like a real Scrooge, I dread this time of year. Sure, I love dinners with friends, fires, and long, dark evenings of conversation. But I loathe the obligation to appear to have a perfect life. Thoughtfully chosen gifts, gourmet dinners, flawless outfits, relentless cheer — all are expected to be delivered with a big smile, despite a crammed schedule, scowling crowds, and “The Little Drummer Boy” blaring nonstop from every storefront.

What I really want to do is stay home all December and watch old movies, but friends won’t let me. Besides starchy food and martinis, I find comfort in tiny moments, like decorating my Christmas tree this afternoon with an imaginative six-year-old who insisted on hanging a light switch he’d found in the basement. I depend on that, and on perfume.

Here are some of the fragrance categories I seek during the holidays…

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Divine Spirituelle ~ fragrance review


When I think of Divine‘s target customer, I imagine an elegant, gentle-mannered woman who wears pearls with élan and not stuffiness, and who appreciates the nuances of a good Darjeeling. That sort of woman could be happy with any of Divine’s feminine offerings, most of which are classic florals, subtly blended, designed to comfort and enchant in a lovely yet conventional way. Put another way, there’s a good chance that no Divine fragrance has ever been smelled in a mosh pit. Divine Spirituelle is true to the house brand.

Perfumer Richard Ibañez developed Spirituelle. Its notes include spices, Sichuan and pink peppercorns, geranium, cistus, May rose absolute, Anatolian rose absolute, light amber, white musk, Texas cedar and incense. In brief, Spirituelle is a warm, tender rose…

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Parfums Montana Parfum de Peau ~ fragrance review

Montana Parfum de Peau

The best way I can sum up Parfums Montana Parfum de Peau (originally released as Montana) is like this: Imagine that Niki de Saint Phalle and La Nuit de Paco Rabanne had a daughter, and they amped her baby formula with steroids. Other kids at school made fun of her for her big nose, protruding eyes and exceptional height. And when she turned 19, she became a supermodel. Parfum de Peau may be the ultimate jolie laide fragrance.

Jean Guichard composed the original Montana perfume in 1986. It’s not clear when the name change took place, but by 1991 it was being referred to in the press as Parfum de Peau. It was apparently reformulated later in the 1990s by Edouard Fléchier, and has no doubt been tweaked since. Its notes include peach, cassis, plum, pepper, cardamom, ginger, rose, tuberose, jasmine, ylang ylang, carnation, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, civet, castoreum, amber, musk and frankincense.

In Perfume, Nigel Groom describes Parfum de Peau as an “avant-garde chypre.” As its list of notes hints, Parfum de Peau is something between a symphony and raucous nightclub…

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