Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Boss Orange by Hugo Boss : Perfume Review

Boss fragrances are usually received with deafening silence in the perfume blogging community, and not without good reason: the fact that each perfume in the lineup has a name that is some sort of confusing (and utterly ungoogle-able) variation on the Hugo Boss name is enough to baffle the Boss marketing execs themselves, but most importantly, the fragrances have for the largest part been as indistinctive and bland as their namesakes. Myself not excluded from the collective perfume-community derision regarding the Boss fragrance lineup, I’d completely ignored the latest launch, Boss Orange, ever since it first appeared on the shelves. When my newest Douglas magazine arrived with a free sample however, I decided to test this on my skin. Time to eat my words? Well, yes. I actually really like this!

The opening is not the strongest point of Boss Orange: a soft, smooth peach note is combines with juicy, barely-there notes of pear but after a few moments a strong note of dry, tart green apple takes over completely, dominating the composition. It is not unpleasant per se, but while the peach-pear combo was juicy and natural smelling, the apple note is more on the synthetic side, and most importantly rather intrusive, not really allowing the wearer to focus on any other facet of the perfume. Undoubtedly, it adds freshness to the composition, but this is the kind of harsh, urgent freshness I could frankly do without. Fortunately, about fifteen minutes later the apple note loses its sharpness and evolves into a far more agreeable presence. The soft, woody-oriental base starts coming through, lending easy, comfortable warmth to the overall feel of the perfume. At this point, Boss Orange smells like a Burberry fragrance in character and feel, so lovers of Burberry fragrances should definitely give this a shot. The best comparison I can make is that this smells like a combination of Burberry Classic with its dry apple overtones and Burberry Brit, with its sweet, woody-vanillic oriental base (albeit not being nearly as sweet as Brit). I do not smell much of the reported white floral heart notes, except perhaps a vague, well blended jasmine-y floralcy. What I do perceive intensely and find myself immensely attracted to is a lovely milky accord running through the composition and easing us into the beautifully creamy base notes. Rising light vanilla cream with a subtle hint of cinnamon and beautiful, sweet, buttery sandalwood make for an amazingly attractive base that lasts and lasts. I can see this being a comfortable every day choice for autumn and winter, something you put on and feel good without thinking too much about it, like a favorite sweater that despite its simplicity just works, making you feel gorgeous. Boss Orange is comforting and cuddly, while at the same time being sensual enough to make others want to lean in and get a proper whiff. I’d very happily wear this if it was given to me. If the (rather prolonged) sharpness of the opening does not put you off, you'll be rewarded with a very pretty every day oriental that dries down to a wonderfully yummy vanilla-sandalwood scent that is not only beautiful but also addictive.


Monday, September 28, 2009

A Scent by Issey Miyake : Perfume Review

If Issey Miyake did not yet manage to rid his name of any connotations of the dark era of insipid, unisex, ozonic perfumery with his cult, avant-garde masterpiece Le Feu d’Issey, the time has surely come with the newest addition in the Miyake fragrance lineup, simply titled A Scent by Issey Miyake. Not that either the bottle or the name help much in the quest of deliverance from these preconceived notions: the bottle, looking as if it is fashioned out of a simple, shining slab of glass, frosted on the sides to resemble the primitive rawness of the material out of which the polished final product emerges, stays even truer to the keystones of minimalist design than the original L’Eau. So fundamental is the design, it almost seems like an exaggerated representation of what a minimalist perfume bottle should look like. This is either a bottle that takes minimalism too seriously or a bottle created with a good dose of humor. As for the name, well, it can’t get any more elemental than that. Again, minimalism infinitesimally exaggerated and underscored.

So take all this and add to it my disdain for the original L’Eau d’Issey, groundbreaking for sure at the time and set to become a classic, but oh so virulent (well, it wouldn’t be a classic if it wasn’t) and oh so suffocating under the pretence of minimalist, diaphanous freshness. This seemed to ring a bell at first sight, providing a trepid sense of déjà vu that wasn’t very pleasant. But thankfully, first sight isn’t quite the same as first sniff. It was at first sniff that all my resistance and apprehension crumbled. A Scent is beautiful!

A Scent opens with a delicate, lightly sweet citrus-verbena on a fresh, musky backdrop tinged with the lactonic greenness of grass. By no means are the notes sharply outlined: aldehydes smudge the picture with their frothy nature and this image of a clear spring day is beautifully diffused and romantic. The sweetness is gradually stripped off as we are eased into the heart, a gorgeous blast of green intensifying until it finally takes over. Gorgeous, supremely green, surprisingly frosty and metallic galbanum reveals itself to be the star of A Scent. Hyacinth joins in (and oh how beautiful it is to find this gorgeous combination of notes again in a modern fragrance), supporting the greenness and adding a beautiful green-floral touch. A garland of jasmine (stripped off of any animalic, carnal tendencies) wraps around the green column bringing a hint of warmth to the cool blend, as well as a compelling exotic aura. The base showcases a subtly earthy, mossy cord with soapy tonalities, which hours later will dry down to a dried hay skin-scent. What is most striking about A Scent, and what I believe will please most perfume lovers who profess their love and nostalgia for the classics of the past, is that it pays beautiful, honest homage to the Great Greens: Vent Vert, Chanel No. 19, Ivoire, Murasaki. The connection with the first two is especially evident. Perfumer Daphné Bugey has reinterpreted the classic green for Issey Miyake adding just a gentle touch of quiet, modern femininity for the current market. The main difference, if you will, is that this is a subtler, more diffuse rendition of green. One thing’s for certain: the department store shelves haven’t seen a new release like this in years. There have been fragrances beautiful, magnificent, stellar even. But it’s been a great long time since we last saw a fearless green.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Winner Phénomène by Solissima Decant

Rebella has won the draw for the decant of Solissima's Phénomène! Congratulations and thank you to everyone who participated. Rebella, please email me your details and I will get a packet out to you! Results via

Please look forward to the next contest here on Fragrance Bouquet!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fragrance Bouquet Presents Le Jardin Retrouvé (Part 2)

This past Friday we put the spotlight on a man who was part of a team that shaped the face of modern perfumery by producing perfumes that we now consider classics, a man who first took part in a project combining music and perfume (even though last year journalists credited Francis Kurkdjian as the first to perfume a music event making use of ‘special machines’, it was in fact Gutsatz who in 1952 first took on the task to perfume an Opéra-ballet - “Les Indes Galantes”- and who figured out a way to dispense perfumes of his creation through the ventilation), and finally, a man who was at the forefront of niche perfumery. Today in the second part of our presentation of Le Jardin Retrouvé, we let the man, Yuri Gutsatz, take a background seat and bring his work, the perfumes he created for Le Jardin Retrouvé to the foreground.

Citron Poivré: Let me start by saying I am not a huge citrus fan. I appreciate the sparkle and freshness they can bring to the opening of complex blends and as perfumery has advanced to allow for citrus notes to last longer and longer I have also come to love the way they can exalt other notes later in the development. It is rare however, the perfume that is entirely based on citrus and still manages to grab my attention. There are but a few exceptions and, I am glad to say, this is one of them. Citron Poivré is built around an exceptionally beautiful note of Calabrian lemon, which while retaining its bracing sharpness manages to also transcend it, being rendered at the same time as both creamy and candied. How this result is achieved, I do not know, but I can tell you that it is glorious. The candied, creamy character leaves behind all notions of lemon as a predominately cologne-fresh ingredient and elevates it as the main character in a composition that is, to my great surprise, a spicy oriental in character. Although come to think of it, the surprise mightn’t be so great, considering that Boucheron has similarly created a spicy oriental with a heavy citrus emphasis in the form of Trouble. This however, is far superior. The most winning feature of Citron Poivré is the marvelous interplay between the bright, candied lemon and the spicy, dark bursts of black pepper that give off like fireworks from the skin. While this pair dances its duet in the prolonged stage of the opening, one cannot possibly imagine a more pleasant combination of notes that could reach the nose. Slowly, the stage fills with yet more dancers, and while the lemon and the pepper remain at the center, the wearer’s attention cannot help but be drawn to the rest of the beautiful cast: pimento and geranium, a hint of bay leaf, but most importantly, cinnamon and clove. The cinnamon/clove pair is formidable and demanding: on the one hand, they complement the peppery lemon to perfection, on the other hand, the risk is high that they overwhelm the composition with their forceful character. One cannot help but marvel then, at the technical brilliance of the perfumer: the procession is slow; the main characters will not be obscured until the deep drydown. The composition bears however their strong stamp and Citron Poivré reads beautifully, like an exceptional Caron.

Jasmin: Of all the Jardin Retrouvé fragrances that I’ve smelled, Jasmin is my absolute favorite. It is also the most interesting jasmine-based floral I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across. If you are looking for a photorealistic image of jasmine, you won’t find it here: the simple name might lead one to think this is a run-of-the-mill soliflore, but it isn’t. The perfumer has chosen to reveal to us not the scent of the flower in the absolute sense, but rather, the glory of its exotic nature. At the heart of the perfume, there’s always jasmine, true beautiful jasmine absolute, rich, exotic, warm, diffusive and animalic. What you cannot possibly be prepared for, is the complexity. The opening is smoky and dark and as this darkness dissipates, the following impression is that of a floral full of buttery, intriguingly oily nuances courtesy of the high concentration of ylang-ylang. This impression in turn is counteracted by an intensely green floral note that spikes through the composition. The slightest hint of clove spices the blend, while a supple note of leather hugs it all gently. It is the leather, along with the exceptionally intense animalic undertones which make this the most interesting jasmine perfume I’ve ever smelled. Simply astounding.

Chèvrefeuille: Honeysuckle is one of those plants that fill my heart with happiness just by looking at it, no doubt due to associations formed in early childhood. Memories, fragmented but vibrant like snapshots, place me giggling alongside my friends in front of a huge honeysuckle bush, gorging ourselves on the nectar of its blossoms. Every spring I’d plunder the generous plant, the nectar seeming all the sweeter, for it was forbidden by my father - likely worried I’d get stung by a bee. For years I’ve searched for an accurate interpretation of its beautiful, seducing scent - a difficult task, considering its scent cannot be distilled or extracted. The closest I’d come to finding one I liked was Yves Rocher’s Chèvrefeuille, which although beautiful, and despite the company being famous for producing some of the most realistic soliflores, does not really come close to approximating the scent of the beautiful honeysuckle. Yuri Gutsatz’s imaginary reconstruction however, is a gift to all romantics like me, who love the gorgeous blossoms as much for their nectar as for their scent. Blossoming on the skin with the soft, hay-like, balsamic note of St. John’s Wort and fresh, Calabrian lemon, the perfume shows us already from the beginning the balance that will be held throughout the development: equal measures of fresh and sweet, to capture the marvelous character of honeysuckle, as fresh as it is nectarous. Although nothing can come close to the true flower, Le Jardin Retrouvé’s own interpretation comes as close to the ideal as I’ve found.

From the wide selection of perfumes Le Jardin Retrouvé offers, I’ve come to love most of them: Cuir de Russie, with its unique, surprisingly floral character, Verveine Cèleste which adds a beautiful, intense grassy element to the traditional fougere blend, Eau de Tubéreuse for its enthralling, compelling femininity (if you love tuberose, you must try this!). There were also others that left me less enamored, such as Santal or Pour Homme, the first one being too simple and powdery, lacking the essence of true sandalwood (a bit like Roger Gallet’s version), the latter too traditional and outdated. Today I’ve presented to you the three I love most, although I’ll admit it was a hard call choosing between a review of Chèvrefeuille or one of Eau de Tubéreuse. In the end, I chose the honeysuckle because there are simply not so many honeysuckle perfumes in the market, and moreover none so beautiful and realistic, despite the fact that Eau de Tubéreuse is in my opinion a superior perfume and probably one of the best tuberoses I’ve smelled. I’ve come away from these past weeks of researching Yuri Gutsatz life with deep admiration for the man himself as well as his work and I won’t hide it, a little sadness. Sadness for not knowing about him earlier, sadness that I still don’t know as much as I would like, sadness that I won’t ever get to speak with him personally, or shake his hand. There’s happiness too, for I got to smell some of his creations, got to meet his family and for the fact that I can tell you about him here, on Fragrance Bouquet. If you would also like to sample the perfumes of Le Jardin Retrouvé, follow this link for instructions. By paying 2 euro postage through pay pal you can sample three perfumes of your choice. Through this link you can access the order forms to order full bottles of perfume or other products, such as candles. If you wish to contact Le Jardin Retrouvé per mail, you can find all the information you need here. Lastly, for those of you wishing to find out more about Le Jardin Retrouvé, Yuri Gutsatz and his life, click here to access the website’s own forum, which has countless of interesting materials to read. Most of them are in French, but there are plenty in English as well. If I may suggest something to get you started, here is a beautifully written piece on the perfumes and scents of India written by Yuri Gutsatz himself.

Images: Lemon slice via, jasmine via Wikipedia, honeysuckle via

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fragrance Bouquet Presents Le Jardin Retrouvé (Part 1)

While on my vacation this summer, I received an email by Denis Gutsatz expressing both surprise and lament at the fact that this website, dedicate to perfume, bears no mention or word of his father, Yuri Gutsatz. I’ll admit that regrettably, I had never heard of the name before, but found myself not only intrigued but moreover moved by this first email contact. How noble, I thought to myself, how compelling and stirring to come across a son who makes it his mission to keep his father’s name, memory and life’s work alive. And so I followed the link that came with the invitation to learn more about this man of whom I’d previously known nothing about and discovered not only a perfumer, but also a brand, Le Jardin Retrouvé.

Yuri Gutsatz (1914-2005) was born in Russia but found himself in France at a young age, when his family fled their homeland due to the revolution. Barely out of his teens, Gutsatz became a self-taught perfumer, gradually honing his craft in the laboratories of Maison Mury (for a little more information on the Mury company, please click here for a short guide written by the incredibly knowledgeable Cleopatra’s Boudoir). His employment in Mury might have been self-described as "chance" or "serendipity" but there is no denying neither his affinity for the work nor his instant love for it. After the second world war, Gutsatz, due to another stroke of "serendipity" was offered the chance to study perfumery more formally in Grasse, an opportunity he gladly grasped. He later found himself working alongside Louis Amic, the owner of Roure - the company that innovatively brought fashion houses and perfumery together, by obtaining briefs from couture houses and using its star perfumers to materialize the wonders that brought said houses incredible fame and fortune. He'd later say that it was serendipity again that he found work in Roure alongside Amic, for while in Grasse he'd met none other than Jean Carles, with whom he became friends. When the two met again in Paris, Jean Carles invited him to Roure so that he could introduce him to Amic when he heard Gutsatz was looking for work. Chance or destiny? A serendipitous meeting or fate? And can we really take the recognition of talent out of the equation? I think not. During the years he worked for Roure together with a small group of other perfumers, the company produced almost all the perfumes for the grand houses of Jacques Fath, Nina Ricci, Carven, Balmain, Balenciaga and Piguet. For Gutsatz those were the golden years of perfumery, and its most bright star his co-worker, Germaine Celier, whom he graciously thought of as "...the most talented of us all."

In 1975, disillusioned with the state of perfumery, Gutsatz founded his own company - Le Jardin Retrouvé. Essentially, Gutsatz built a small perfume brand based on ideals, love and dedication to perfumery and in the interest of following his own instincts instead of briefs motivated by money, at a time when the public had yet no notion of “niche” and indeed at a time when he himself could not have predicted the meteoric rise of niche we witness today. Justifiably, his son - Denis Gutsatz - considers his father, alongside Jean Laporte as the ‘founders’ of what we now perceive as niche perfumery. Yuri Gutsatz, was not only a talented perfumer however. He was also a prolific writer and a polemical one at that. Poignantly, he sensed the danger perfumery was under long before the public ever awoke to the fact and set himself against the industry and its practices by revealing his disgust as he saw his beloved art-form becoming a cog in the grand money-making wheel. He went as far as to compare perfume companies to oil-drilling companies in their disregard for the value of perfume as an art form and their focus on maximizing profits by cutting on quality. He lamented the fact that perfume had become one and the same with marketing and image, in a sense a luxury that we buy with our eyes, instead of our nose. He found himself appalled at the fact that the public was being sold a myth of fabulous, rare and priceless ingredients with a matching price-tag, when the actual cost would be a fraction at best. So was born Le Jardin Retrouvé, a brand that offered (and still does) perfumes in unpretentious, inexpensive bottles, without ostentatious names, no marketing ploys and modest, appropriate price-tags. And how disheartening is it that the issues that so troubled Monsieur Gutsatz in 1975 are still incredibly current and burning today and moreover, that the company that he built in order to counter these operates in obscurity? Is it impossible to garner the attention and the respect of the public without sacrificing your soul to the altar of marketing and money? Are we unable to place as much value in a product that comes in simple, unpretentious glass instead of expensive boxes and sleek design? Finally, did Yuri Gutsatz ever get to see that there is now a growing community with the same burning questions, the same discontent and the same fears that he had? I hope so…

Join me on Monday for Part 2 of Fragrance Bouquet’s feature on Le Jardin Retrouvé, for a presentation of several of the line’s perfumes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Perfumed Quotes: Michael Kors

"Fragrance is the only thing that's about your being, your soul, and it's for people size zero to twenty two and ages twelve to ninety."
-Michael Kors

Monday, September 14, 2009

Comments & Emails, BACK SOON!

One of the greatest pleasures this blog gives me, is the ability to come together and communicate with all you wonderful readers, either through the comments or through email. Well, the beginning of this new academic year at the University continues to be rather hard to adjust to (I have to actually conduct my own research this year, write a thesis and do way too many classes at the same time). Right now I am finding my way and adjusting to the new schedule. It is quite stressful and busy, so I have not been able to answer to your comments and I am behind with my email. Thank you so much for both your comments and emails. I read them all, but so far have not been able to respond in the last couple of weeks. Things are already settling however and I expect to be back into a rhythm soon! I wanted to let you know that even when I have not responded, I have not forgotten or neglected. I think of you and your comments and mails are always a source of excitement for me. Thank you for them and thank you for your patience and support. Now, go ahead, read the new review on Phenomene, an obscure commercially produced Turkish perfume. There is a draw for a decant of it, so know that even if I do not immediately respond, all commenters will be elligible and a winner will be announced next week!

Many kisses from me.

Phénomène by Solissima : Perfume Review & Draw

My trip to Istanbul offered one last perfumed discovery, the Solissima line of perfumes. During my stay there, I inquired about the possibility of finding a commercial line of Turkish perfumes and sure enough, I was soon directed to a perfume shop that carried the whole line of products. The main company, Soley Parfumeri, was founded in 1971 and has been satisfying the needs of the domestic market since then. In 2005, a division called Solissima Parfums was created with the purpose to expand the company into the foreign market. Solissima currently produces three different lines of perfumes, each currently offering five different scents: the Very Merry Collection and the Very Private Collection for women and the simply named Man Collection for men. The Very Merry Collection strikes me as the ‘younger’, trendier line, while the Very Private Collection seems to be the company’s prestige line. Both are well made, but the Very Private Collection is definitely superior. What I most appreciated about all three lines is that they offer something for every taste: a green, an oriental, a chypre, a floral, an aldehydic, a fruity floral, a fresh-hesperidic and so on. There is definitely something for every taste, even in the men’s line which has one more surprising advantage: In contradiction to most widely-available department store masculine fragrances, Solissima’s masculines feature rather daring notes, like vanilla, fruit, coconut and floral notes such as ylang ylang and hyacinth. Even though western department store masculine scents are also currently following the example set by the niche sector in offering compositions with more daring notes, these efforts can still be described as tentative and relatively rare. It is thus refreshing to see a line in which only one of the five scents offered is a typical, fresh hesperidic, while the other four play with notes that are still almost taboo where masculine scents are concerned.

My favorite of the Very Private Collection is Phénomène, described by the company as a “spicy, sweet oriental”. The description is accurate, but to make it even more specific, I would add that this is a gourmand oriental with a lovely, woody base. The opening is intense and smells surprisingly masculine: A mélange of citrus fruit adds sparkle to the top as a deep lavender note emerges. This in turn is already infused with the heavy, woody notes of the base. A fabulous roasted coffee bean note snakes its way through, imparting a beautiful caramelized bitterness to the otherwise sweet composition. Despite not smelling too similar, the bittersweet character of this stage in the development reminds me of Angel Men Pure Coffee, feeling in a way, as though its essence was distilled and then formed the base for a beautiful new feminine fragrance. Bitter cherry joins the lovely bittersweet chorus, underscored by pure chocolate. This is a perfume that showcases beautiful contrasts. Yes, the major theme is the struggle between bitterness and sweetness, but just as intriguing is the tumultuous coupling of sternness and softness: The vetiver employed is rather sharp and marries beautifully with the smoky cedar but the picture is only completed with the creamy softness provided by the vanilla and sandalwood. The struggle relents only hours later in the deep drydown, when finally the sweetness prevails, hugging the skin with a gentle, powdery veil of amber, warm musk and soft vanilla.

I’ve found myself very impressed with both the quality and complexity of Phénomène. It has a beautiful development and the changes it undergoes manage to hold my interest for hours. The company keeps the price-point modest by using the same bottle and cap for each scent of a line, so that is another plus point. Unfortunately, even though Solissima was created with the purpose of expanding the Turkish company into the foreign market, I have no idea where aside from Turkey these are being sold. Considering I haven’t seen them anywhere else yet, I would hazard the guess that the distribution is currently limited to countries of the Middle East. However, as always when reviewing a hard-to-find fragrance of which I have enough quantity to pass around, I am holding a draw. Simply post a comment if you wish to be included. The winner will receive a spray decant of Phénomène from me. Winner to be announced in a week’s time.

Images: Solissima bottles via, Coffee Beans via

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fragrance Bouquet Featured in Sniffapalooza Mag & Free Bottle of Perfume!

Goodmorning dears! I am really happy to announce my collaboration with the wonderful Sniffapalooza Magazine starting from this month. The current issue devotes a huge section featuring my London trip memoires and I couldn't be prouder! Even if you've already read my travelogues here, be sure to read this juicy issue which contains not only fabulous perfume reviews, but also a fascinating interview with Marian Bendeth, Global Fragrance Expert and owner of Sixth Scents. Last but not least, be sure to sign the Guestbook (scroll all the way down to find it): Sniffapalooza Magazine is offering a free bottle of perfume for one of the first 100 readers that leave a comment! Don't miss out! Click here to be directed to the current issue.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Scents of Summer (Final Part, Istanbul)

Being deliriously in love with spices, smells, exotic flavors and the hustle-and-bustle of the market, it came as no surprise that I fell in love with Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar. Located in the central Eminonu district, it is known as Misir Carsisi (Egyptian Bazaar), due to the fact that most of the spices sold there in the past were imported from Egypt. The bazaar is housed in a beautiful domed building featuring three grand entranceways. Inside, a plethora of small, vaulted shops line both sides of each crowded walkway, their vibrantly colored, densely displayed wares creating a spectacular explosion of color for the eyes to feast upon. But it is not just the eyes that feast; truly, for a lover of scents the first step inside Misir Carsisi is like stepping into a heavenly world of aromas so pervasive in the air around you that it almost feels as though you’re bathed in them. So beautiful is the experience, that I returned there daily during my visit just to revel in the atmosphere. It became my happy place.

The only way to try and approximate a description of what this place smells like, is to give you an idea of what is sold there, and keep in mind that almost every shop (with only few exceptions) generally sells the same type of things. Spices are of course the most commonly sold good, and what immediately catches the eye. The variety is astounding: curries, colorful mounds of different peppercorns, star-anis, different sorts of sesame, saffron from all corners of the world (Spanish, Iranian, Indian, Turkish, Greek, Moroccan….), salep powder, chilies and cardamoms, cumin and mint, garam masala, oregano, basil, peppermint, cinnamon and clove and so, so much more than I could ever imagine or remember, including various fabulous mixes to perfectly spice any kind of dish. Shredded, sliced and diced vegetables are sold by the kilo from large sacks, a perfect solution as a base for soups and casseroles. Aphrodisiacs of questionable effect are sold everywhere, either alone with some sort of reference to Viagra (I can’t read Turkish, but I’d presume they’re being advertised as a natural Viagra) or in tea-blends meant to be used by couples, often cheekily labeled as Love Tea, an extremely pungent mixture whose scent will somehow penetrate through airtight containers and contaminate everything else you are carrying with you. Baskets are filled with all manner of dried fruit, from the more traditional figs, dates, bananas, apricots and carobs to the more exotic kiwis, mangos, pineapples and papayas. Berries are not missing from the mix of course, and since I find them a perfect snack when those sugar cravings hit, I left with bags of dried mulberries, cranberries, cherries and strawberries. Yum! The tea lover should feel right at home at Misir Carsisi as there are a myriad varieties and blends to explore. While you probably won’t find Pu-ehr or Baozhong tea here, forget about being a purist and delve in the magical world of fabulously flavored Turkish teas: Lemon, Orange, Jasmine, flower-bud, apple, berry, fruit and blossom mixes… the list goes on and on. My favorite (from the ones I tried) was the apple tea, a lovely, tangy, sweet-and-sour tea that is simply delightful. Are you getting a waft of the lovely bazaar aromas yet? But wait, there’s more! Spicy and fruity yes, but also candied and sugary, because the bazaar is also filled with traditional Turkish confections! There are rows upon rows and heaps upon heaps of all kinds of Turkish delight, big or tiny all dusted with the finest of powdered sugar and starch. And stranger sweets yet: rows of beautifully prepared rolls, made of something like melted marshmallow which is paper thin and then rolled around delights such as nuts, chocolate, coffee, coconut or mixes of the above. They produce a heavenly, sweet, roasted aroma and taste even better, soft, fluffy and slightly warm when fresh. Then there are these enormous, mound-shaped sweets made from any sort of sticky sweet (dried fruit syrup and pulp, nugat, honey etc) and filled with nuts. These are made in large buckets (from which they take their round, mound-like shape) and taste absolutely delicious! Nuts and seeds are also being sold everywhere, as are some slightly out-of-place delicacies such as caviar and pastirma (a very pungent, air-dried meat, mostly made of either camel meat or beef which is covered in an almost jelly-like film of cumin, garlic, fennel and hot red paprika). Try to imagine all of these smells combining together and there you’ll have it, the scent of Misir Carsisi, the pungent with the soft and fluffy smelling, the sweet with the sour, the spicy with the flowery, the candied with the fruity… Pure, absolute bliss. And if you, like me, love busy, colorful places where humanity congregates, haggles, shouts, negotiates, laughs, smiles and whistles, this will probably become your happy place too when you visit.

As enticing as the atmosphere as well as the smells, sights and sounds themselves of the Misir Carsisi might be, it holds in fact, an even bigger lure to make it a definite must-see for the perfume lover. The heart of the Spice Bazaar holds a precious gem: the Arifoglu perfume shop and its perfumer, Orhan. Arifoglu sells an incredible variety of perfume oils, absolutes and tinctures as well as a number of raw materials, solid waxes and powders. Can I just say Perfume-Lover’s Heaven? There are two Arifoglu shops inside Misir Carsisi, but the one closest to the Golden Horn entrance, where Orhan works, is the one that you really should visit as it has the most variety and of course, because it has… Orhan! If you wish to see as many of the raw materials as possible and spend some time with the oils and perfumes as well, be prepared to spend several hours here and hope that it’s not a very busy day. This place is truly amazing. It is also good to know beforehand that Arifoglu sells both natural and synthetic products. And yes, this is a Turkish market, so be prepared for the fact that you cannot come right out and ask “Is this synthetic” much in the same way that you cannot ask “Is this bag a real YSL or a fake?” inside the Kapalicarsi (Not that there are any real YSL bags in Kapalicarsi, just to clear things up!). It is simply not done and all you’ll achieve is to get people mad at you. How to tread these waters? What is good Bazaar etiquette? First of all, be an expert. That is, know beforehand how something smells and looks like if you don’t want to get caught out. Believe me, there are no merchants in the world that are better than the Turks, and their expert eye will know whether you know. I know this is hard (or even impossible), especially when it comes to rare materials such as musks, ambergris etc. you might not have had the chance to smell, but really, it is the only good way. Second, spend time there and show that your interest is serious and that you respect the staff’s expertise. Third, well, be liked by the staff. If you manage to get them to know you and like you, you might gain access to things that otherwise remain hidden behind doors, drawers or cupboards. Again, do not ask for any hidden, better stuff, but gently, yet confidently hint at the fact that you are looking for that which is a little more special. I am sorry if all this sounds a little bit mystifying and/or irritating, but it is simply the way it works. Now on to the treasures!

Just about every single-note oil you might wish to possess either to wear on its own or to use in your personal blends and layering experiments can be found here: Vanilla, Melissa, Myrrh, Saffron, Hay, Olibanum, various musks and a rainbow of roses from Istanbuli to Damaskus, as well as various other flowers and woods, amber mixes and ready-made blends, and beautifully perfumed massage oils. I’ll stop here, because it would be impossible to list every beautiful, gorgeous-smelling product Arifoglu sells. All I’ll say is that the musks and musk blends that this shop sells are astoundingly beautiful. Take-my-breath-away kind of beautiful. There are also gorgeous ready-made blends, often given names that might lead you to think they are dupes, while they are actually beautiful, original perfumes in their own right. An example would be Pleasures, a dusky, husky, fruity-floral blend on a base of musk and powder, which aside from having the exact same name as Este Lauder’s best-seller, bears it no other resemblance at all. Aside from the obvious attraction of the perfumes, one should definitely visit Arifoglu in order to have a personal perfume made just for them by the talented Orhan, who mixes absolutely gorgeous, one of a kind blends. Orhan, sweet, gentle, intuitive, patient, talented, and full of love, respect and passion for perfume is by himself a good-enough reason to visit Istanbul. What perfume lover doesn’t dream to have a scent made just for them? Based on your likes and dislikes and through trial of various blends he creates, together you can slowly approximate the perfect personal blend - Parfum sur Mesure, for a price that won't break the bank. Just as pleasurable is of course giving Orhan full freedom to create for you what he thinks would suit your personality (if you’ve had the time to get better acquainted). He did this for me on my last day, and the result is a beautiful perfume I treasure. Orhan will also blend a perfume based on specification, that is, with ingredients chosen by you. I created such a perfume for a close friend, and it gave me the chance to not only ‘play perfumer’ for a day, but also to buy a gift that is not only truly unique, but also truly from me.

Images: The first image of one of the Spice Bazaar's shops was sourced from Wikipedia. The rest is from the author's own collection.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Scents of Summer (Part 2, Istanbul)

Views of lakes, rivers, glimpses of coast and endless fields of light-worshipping sunflowers helped pass the time pleasantly as we made our way with the car through Northern Greece all the way to the Turkish border, but as dusk fell, the only way to stave off boredom seemed to be sleep. A few hours later I woke up, slightly startled by the vague yet persistent noises all around me. A glance at my watch and then a glance around me: Istanbul. The city was teeming with life and the streets were a pandemonium of blearing horns and cars whose drivers seemed to be following a single rule: Follow no rule at all. Presiding majestically over this overruling ataxia and peering down at us just as we were peering up at them, the rightful proprietors of this city - its buildings. The new next to the old, the Byzantine next the Ottoman, the Muslim next to the Christian, the romantic next to the strikingly modern, the marvelously preserved next to the dilapidated, the colorful next to the ashen. Never have I seen such beautiful madness. I knew then already, from that first moment I opened my sleepy eyes, that if Istanbul is one of those cities that separate people between those that love it and those that hate it, I belonged firmly in the love it camp.

Had this been a travel-blog, my weeklong stay in Istanbul would have provided material for several entries, so rich an experience this strikingly beautiful, indefinitely interesting city offers to travelers. However, this being a perfume blog I find myself struggling to parse everything that makes Istanbul what it is into an entry about the city’s scents, of which believe me, it has plentiful. I might as well start with the most obvious: The city smells like corn. That’s right, corn! Every single corner has a vendor offering both grilled and boiled corn-on-the-cob, ready to feed the city’s inexplicable, insatiable hunger for the cereal grain. Everyone seems to be constantly eating it while walking around and by the end of the day trashcans are overflowing with the gnawed-clean leftovers. Every few steps one is inexorably greeted with the sweet smell of corn. Munching on one while on the go makes one practically a native, no matter how blonde or blue-eyed: I was constantly greeted by ushers in Turkish the one time I decided to try one for myself.

This corn obsession might be the most bizarre and by far the most ubiquitous (I am really not exaggerating!) but there are other food-and-drink smells aplenty to tempt the nose of the hungry Istanbul explorer. The best place to find them all in one place is Istiklal Avenue, a wide, long pedestrian avenue that sums up the beautiful chaos that exists in this grand city in the best possible manner. Always busy (literally millions of people walk its length every single day), filled with street performers, vendors, boutiques, restaurants and all manner of shops, Istiklal Avenue offers the possibility to taste and smell countless unique Turkish flavors. It might not all be pleasant - we found ourselves almost heaving when we approached a popular rotisserie that specializes in goat and lamb dishes, but it is certainly interesting. A sweet, milky, vanillic smell surrounds Dondurma (chewy, goat milk ice-cream) vendors as they entertain passersby with acrobatics involving large springy masses of ice-cream flying in the air before returning to the frozen vats for some more churning. That very smell mingles with the heavy smell of spit-roasted meat a few steps down the road and that in turn with the smell of mussels drenched in fresh lemon juice further ahead.

By far the most wonderful, exotic smell you’ll encounter here comes from the wandering salep vendors. I was already familiar with salep since it is a beverage you can easily find in Thessaloniki as well during the winter, but since it is a very typically Turkish drink, I find it deserves mention in this entry. Salep is a thick, fortifying beverage which is served hot and is made of powdered orchid bulbs of certain species, milk, rose water, crushed walnuts and various spices, most notably cinnamon. I personally do not enjoy actually drinking it since the texture is most definitely an acquired taste (it is rather mucous), but whenever I happen upon a salep vendor I stop and linger nearby to revel in its marvelous, spicy scent. Do try this at least once if you travel to Turkey as it is a very unique experience. I mean, how often do you get to drink something made of orchid powder?!

Sometimes particularly delicious smells might prove to be something you’d rather not actually eat. Case in point: while walking down Istiklal Avenue one night, we decided to turn into a particularly busy side street, lured in by the sights and sounds of plentiful eating, drinking, laughing, haggling and general merrymaking. The air was filled with this incredibly delicious, spiced, strong smell of something vaguely meaty-smelling. When we had pushed through the crowd enough to get a glimpse of the lined vendors, we saw that they were preparing sandwiches made of tiny pieces of what looked like soft meat as fast as they could, in order to feed the ravenous throng which was gobbling it all up as if there was no tomorrow. “Alright” I thought, “I’ll try one”. Thankfully, as I was about to order, some instinct prompted me to ask what kind of meat my delicious-looking sandwich was being filled with. The vendor looked at me in surprise: “Intestines!” I took another look at the heap of tiny, soft pieces which only a moment ago had looked (and smelled) so appetizing and of course, saw it too. Intestines. Diced intestines. I retreated as fast as I could, which was not all that hard since the next customer in line was already eagerly ordering. Intestines. My boyfriend laughed and laughed, especially when I told him that my nose was not entirely dissuaded by the knowledge but instead kept finding the scent delicious. Who knew my nose could have such strange tastes?

Join me again on Wednesday for the final part of Scents of Summer when we will visit Istanbul’s spice market, talk about fabulous perfume oils and visit with a perfume artisan who creates gorgeous, unique personal blends.

Images: Istanbul through the window by Sakis Alexiou, Corn vendor via Flickr by Wrote, Dondurma vendor via Wikipedia, Salep fountain via

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Scents of Summer (Part 1, Mykonos)

Sometimes it’s not just scents that create powerful feelings of longing, but sounds as well. The closer the day of my vacation came, the more I missed the sound of cicadas, cicadas singing in the noonday fever of the Greek summer with nary another sound around, for everyone takes refuge from the heat either at seaside or inside when the sun burns brightest, hottest. By the time I was ready to leave Holland, memories of the deafening, blissful song were interwoven with everything Greece is and my craving had become almost unbearable. But there are no cicadas in Mykonos, just the sound of wind and happiness, composed by the collective sounds of the sea, the cheerful voices, the music.

Cicadas need groves, woods to thrive and there aren’t any of those on the dry, magical landscapes of this little Cycladian island. The only plant that seems to grow in almost incontrollable abundance is the Prickly Pear cactus, otherwise known as the Indian Fig, whole fields of which paint a beautiful picture as their prickly paddles are heavily covered with fruit which blushes first bright orange, then red as it’s caressed by the sun’s golden, fiery fingers. Oh, how aromatic Mykonos would be were these fruiting cacti to smell as good as they look! But of course, they don’t. In fact, they smell like nothing at all.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any opportunities to be led by the nose. Far from it in fact: Prickly pears are not the only fruiting plants on the island. There are the glorious fig trees! Take a walk and soon one will call out to you with its unmistakable scented invitation. Before the tree is even in sight, you’ll smell it: unbelievably green, earthy, lactonic, it’s somewhere near! The smell never fails to light up an exclamation mark in my mind: “Fig Tree!” and like a treasure hunter, off I go, literally led by the nose. Find it, pick it, don’t even bother to wash it, just blissfully devour. Get punished with ridiculously sticky fingers if you’re too greedy and pick any that are yet unripe. Laugh about it. And stay a while under its shade, marveling in this God-sent scent. For surely, the smell of the fig tree has to be the work of some divine being? No, no other explanation for such glory. Was it really a humble apple that caused the original sin? Are we sure it wasn’t the fig?

Forget about the airco and crack the window open in the car; On this dry, arid island, the smell of the sea creeps up the hills just as you are climbing down, putting a smile on your face before she even shows her crystal clear smile. First comes her scent, delicious and salty, humid, like a wet kiss in the midst of the dry air. Then comes her sound, the softly lapping waves, and maybe - depending on if it’s a popular beach you’ve chosen - the sound of laughter, people and beachy music. When finally there, ask yourself: Is there any scent on earth that smells as exuberant and at the same time as devoid of any trace of melancholy than the combination of sea water, salty skin, burning sand and sunscreen? Even if there is… I couldn’t possibly come up with it now, when I’m missing it so much. It might not make my heart sing, but it definitely makes me dream.

Sitting down to eat too, offers plenty opportunities to experience beautiful olfactory delights, different depending on the time of day. Eating breakfast at one of the dozens of cafes found at Gialos (the beachside of the main town) will fill your nose with the scent of roasting Greek coffee. If you can stand the novelty of its gritty texture, do like the Greeks and order one for yourself. At lunchtime, the air will be filled with the scent of ouzo; marvel at how beautifully its strong aniseed scent marries with the scent of the sea - it’s like they were meant for each other. The evening air might be most strongly scented with people and their perfume, but sitting down to eat will for sure treat you not only to the scent of beautifully prepared food, but also to the scent of Mastiha (Chios Mastic, aka Chios Tears) for every restaurant in town seems to have taken up the habit of offering a glass of Mastiha Liquer to all diners for free at the end of every meal. This most beautiful of resins is aromatic, resinous, delightfully sweet in a subtle way and most importantly, truly unique. There simply is no other scent that is comparable to it. If you’re lucky, you might even be treated to Mastiha ice-cream, a real delight, especially when eaten together with kantaifi, an oriental delicacy made of clove and cinnamon spiced walnuts wrapped in angel hair and covered in thin, delicate syrup. Even though mastic trees are native to the whole of Mediterranean and grow in many different places, bizarrely, only those on the Greek island of Chios actually produce the resin, which is consequently rare and valuable. Tasting and smelling this beautiful product is truly a unique Greek experience.

But what if you’re after actual perfume? Mykonos will not disappoint there either. It might be daunting to visit all of the countless clothes and accessories boutiques, but if you’re determined to find niche perfumes, it is definitely the way to go since there simply isn’t a place where you can find many niche brands assembled together. Instead, it is the clothes and accessories boutiques that have adopted a brand or two of choice. Eccentric Molecules, Anick Goutal (yes, including the full range of Les Orientalistes), Comme des Garçons and many others are hidden, waiting to be discovered. A visit to the pharmacies will pay off as well, since that’s where you’ll come across hard-to-find Greek perfumes, such as the full range of Apivita (definitely do try Spice and Earth, they are both lovely) and Korres (love the bath & body products, not so hot about the perfumes in this case). A great discovery I made in one of the town’s three pharmacies was the Corine de Farme line of fragrances (Jasmine, The Vert, Vanille and Amande) which is inexpensive but very pretty-smelling and long-lasting. I sprung for the Amande at 12 euros, a beautiful, incredibly realistic bitter almond scent with a milky undertone that very slowly dries down to a cuddly almond-vanilla veil with a musky finish. A bargain! The entire Satellite range can be bought at the Satellite boutique (I refreshed my bottle of 40º à l'Ombre - it’s what I’ve been wearing all summer) and couldn’t resist buying some of the beautiful jewelry as well. Lastly, the determined perfume-lover should definitely venture out of the main town to visit Psarou beach, possibly the most star-studded (and expensive) beach of the island. There you will find not only a magical location but also the beautiful Luisa boutique which sells Dyptique, L’Artisan and Lea St. Barth perfumes. I do love the Lea St. Barth range and since I can’t find them here, a visit there is always a treat. Furthermore at Luisa you can pick up 15ml size bottles of several of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s gems, a great way to finally owning some great perfumes you love but couldn’t bring yourself to committing to a larger bottle.

Finally, this wouldn’t truly be a piece about Mykonos if I didn’t mention this island’s most wonderful quality, its energy. Reading about Mykonos, or hearing about it from those that love it you will undoubtedly come across mention of this mysterious ‘energy’ that is said to affect all those that visit it. Is it the ancient island of Delos nearby? Is it the crazed Meltemia (strong, northern dry winds) that ravage the rocks and rush whistling through its daedal alleys? Is it the beautiful sun that constantly loves the island, bathing it in light? Is it the supposed ‘energy triangle’ formed by Mykonos and nearby Delos and Tinos? Or even its supposed… magnetic field…? Oh what nonsense, I’ve thought countless times with a derogatory smirk. And yet, and yet… I keep going back. I’ve broken my ‘see a different island every summer’ tradition and just keep heading its Siren song. I go back. No more cicadas for me. I’m sure there’s no magnetic field. I’m sure the ‘energy triangle’ of the pagan traditions is just that, a pagan story. But truly, this island has this terrible charm you can’t escape from, this magical, elusive, completely indefinable and intangible quality. You set foot there and suddenly your heart is full. Food for the soul, yes. And there is an energy there. Something you cannot possibly put your finger on. It’s in the way the sun laughs when he sees her, Mykonos. He bathes her in this unbelievable light that reverberates from the streets. You just want to eat it up. And I swear you can smell it.

Images: prickly figs via, figs & the view from our hotel room and myself taking a picture, own collection.