Friday, December 18, 2009

Attacks, Exams, Travel and Wishes

Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for your wishes this past week. My exams are finally over (I passed them!). However some really bad things have happened lately. Someone I love is ill and was in the hospital, which has really, really upset me. Then it felt like I was going to crack under the pressure of all the exams and papers I had to deliver. I finished with the exams on Tuesday and on Wednesday I got attacked by two crazy people here, in this seemingly safe student city. I have been in bed trying to recover (mostly from the psychological shock, I am physically okay) since Wednesday. Further, it is rather hard to type as my right hand is not okay yet and likely won't be for a week. I injured it while trying to fight off my attackers - I lost half of the fingernail from my index and it is really swollen and gross. Thankfully, I didn't lose anything else. The finger will heal and the nail will grow back. I will be okay. I just need to get over the shock now.

I am going to go visit my parents for Christmas and after I come back I have one more exam to give. So Fragrance Bouquet will be back on January the 15th. I will really miss you all! I have missed you already very very much. I wish you the best holidays, whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or anything else :) Please enjoy your loved ones and let them nurture you during your time off from work and studies. See you in January!

With all my love,


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Smelly Facts: Sense of Smell & Pregnancy

A few years ago, in 2007, I had reported here on Fragrance Bouquet on the mistaken, yet still propagated belief that the adult brain does not produce new neurons. In that post I explained that one of the two identified areas in the brain that constantly see the birth of new neurons is the olfactory system (the other is the hippocampus). As I reported back then, neurons in the olfactory system constantly die off, mostly due to their constant exposure to harmful agents and thankfully, they are constantly replaced. Recently, while reading the astonishingly interesting and very humorously written Why Zebras don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky as part of the obligatory books to be learned for my exams in Health Psychology, I came across the following related excerpt which I provide here for your pleasure:

“It turns out that there is a huge burst in the production of those new olfactory neurons early during pregnancy. They are fully on line just around the time of birth, and the scientists who discovered this speculated that these new olfactory neurons are tagged for the task of imprinting forever on the smell of your offspring (a critical event for mothers of most mammals). And what happens early in pregnancy, when those new olfactory neurons are showing up, but not quite making sense yet? I bet this has something to do with the famed nausea of pregnancy, the food aversions and olfactory sensitivities.”

- Sapolsky, R. M., 2004. Why Zebras don’t Get Ulcers. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC

Image: Flickr by Raphael Goetter

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vanille West Indies (Parfum) & Tijuca by Ligne St. Barth : Perfume Reviews

A new exam period is coming up and as the pressure is mounting, the more I find myself daydreaming of carefree days in the sun, someplace where the sand is warm and the water a clear aqua color (alternative scenarios include spring-time city breaks for shopping and Christmas cheer with my family)… So, in lieu of an actual beach holiday, let’s indulge in a scented taste of summer today on Fragrance Bouquet, amidst the atrociously wintry December weather.

Ligne St. Barth is a line I absolutely love but unfortunately can’t find around here. Every summer however, I get the chance to find its products again at the super-exclusive Luisa Beach Boutique in Mykonos. On the cosmopolitan, star-studded beach of Psarou, every sculpted, famous body sunning itself on the ridiculously expensive, soft, queen-sized loungers is religiously pampered with one of the beautifully packaged Ligne St. Barth oils or milks purchased from Luisa. A child of the generation which has been indoctrinated early on with every beauty editor’s and dermatologist’s mantra on responsible sun exposure, I shy away from these all-natural sun-care products and defiantly hold on to my broad-spectrum, 50+ La Roche-Posay sunscreen, coveting the fabulous, ultra-summery resort packaging of the St. Barth products from afar. But even though I can’t allow myself the treat of one of their suncare products, I fully indulge in their body products and of course, my absolute favorites, their perfumes! From the amazingly unique, ethereal yet addictive beauty of Fleur de Gingembre to the sensual Patchouli Arawak which combines a very dry, beautiful patchouli with gloriously round amber and a hint of oily coconut, there’s something in the Ligne St. Barth line for everyone. Importantly, to me, all their perfumes from chypre to oriental, manage to incorporate a prevalent, deliciously recognizable summery element. This is quite important for it ensures that purchasing a Ligne St. Barth product means you buy a little piece of tropical paradise to take home with you. Today I review two perfumes of this gorgeous line - not my favorite Patchouli Arawak, Fleur de Canne à Sucre or Fleur de Gingembre, but two perfumes I hadn’t yet had the chance to become well acquainted with.

Vanille West Indies: Ligne St. Barth offers two different parfum-strength vanilla perfumes - Vanilla, a sweet caramel-vanilla blend and this one, the newer Vanille West Indies which also features hints of caramel but also adds beautifully feminine delicate exotic floral notes to the mix. If you love vanilla and sweet notes, this is the luxury summer choice: the very high concentration of pure perfume is instantly evident from the film of oil that covers the skin upon spraying. The vanilla here is very, very natural, manifesting as a combination of pure extract and freshly scraped seeds. There is a beautiful, lightly sugared creaminess to this perfume that makes it smell a bit like a highly vanilic crème brûlée. The caramel note is not overpowering, definitely playing a secondary role, but it is however very clearly perceptible. To get a good idea, you should imagine molten butterscotch. The delicate floral orchid notes are subtle, but beautifully enhance the femininity of the blend. Aside from the high concentration, natural feel and the beautiful quality, what makes this a vanilla worth owning, is the aforementioned summery appeal. Despite very clearly being a gourmand-oriental, Vanille West Indies is highly wearable in the summer, not only due to its velvety subtlety, but also courtesy of a highly original ‘frozen’ overtone that imbues the scent with an icy coolness. Considering the rest of the fragrance is supremely warm, this provides a delightfully unexpected sensation. It also has to be said that this cool overtone is categorically not aquatic in nature, but translates more as a sensation. This gorgeous vanilla is a must-have for vanilla collectors and a definite must-try for vanilla lovers.

Tijuca: I find Tijuca’s opening incredibly restful for spirit and mind, as it opens with the bright sensation of pure white light. This sensation is created through the beautifully clean blend of musks, which to me has the very beneficial effect of clearing the mind. For a few moments, all I can think is white - white cotton, soft pure white light and the cleanliness and serenity of a luxurious spa. A few moments later, the perfume transports me to a Mediterranean garden, full of spicy, herbal goodness: Bay leaves, grasses and fragrant bushes, light, sweet citrus and rosemary, cypress, roses, geranium and plenty of cool shade. The feel continues to be clean and there is a prominent impression of a cool breeze, carrying with it the warm scents of spices and balmy, odoriferous herbs. The woody base is redolent of sweet sandalwood which is perfectly balanced, lending the fragrance a gentle roundness, but never taking away from the serene freshness that is prevalent throughout the development. This stunning, unisex herbal/spicy blend is absolutely perfect for spring and summer and is guaranteed to bring calmness, joy and lightness to the spirit. I love it! Right now, I can’t imagine anything more perfect than sharing a bottle with my boyfriend.

Oh, so guess how I feel now? So ready to take the next plane out, even as I have to go back to my books. But since my daydreams all involve other European locales, I guess even a plane wouldn’t be able to fix the problem of the weather. I guess I’ll just have to wait for spring and dream.

These self-chosen samples were sent to me by Essenza Nobile, a web-company that sells cosmetics and perfume and has astounding variety of niche, hard-to-find perfumes. (Editor’s Note: This endorsement is unsolicited and absolutely voluntary! Fragrance Bouquet is not getting paid by the other party.) The two fragrances reviewed can be bought from Essenza Nobile for 93 and 75 Euro respectively. To view the company’s webshop, please click here. (Check left-hand side bar for the full list of brands sold)

Images: Testers of Ligne St. Barth suncare on the counter outside Luisa Beach Boutique entrance, via Vanille West Indies bottle and four of the line’s edts, including Tijuca, both via www.