Shalimar

shalimarConfession:
I’m horribly intimidated by people who worship at the altar of Guerlain.
They say, “Mitsuoko, a classic of the genre,” and “L’Heure Bleue is my universal reference,” in reverent tones. I nod silently and try to look discerning while hoping my Lolita Lempicka or LUSH holds against my nervous sweat.

I keep trying Shalimar–vintage bottles and new–and sometimes it’s cedar sawdust and vanilla powder, and sometimes it’s leathery old lemons and oddly sweet turpentine.
I’ve just never gotten a “feel” for the stuff. It lasts forever on the skin, projects like mad, and reminds everybody else of somewhere, some time, or someone, but I’ve never understood the magic.
Everything wonderful is in there–a citrus opening, earthy rose and patchy iris in the middle, smoke and civet and balsam on the bottom–but there’s never that gestalt moment when the scent becomes more than the sum of its parts.

So I keep sniffing it, hoping for the a-ha understanding, when my novice schnozz graduates to full-on fragonista, capital-N-Nose, and maybe I will see the light that is Guerlain.


Shalimar was introduced in 1925, when Paris was overrun with American jazz and the années folles of art and entertainment following the Great War.
Gershwin hit Europe with Rhapsody in Blue that same year.
This father-son duo do a great piano arrangement.

Sortilège

sortilegeHave you ever opened a box of old vintage sewing patterns at a rummage sale, and gotten transported back in time–before you were born, even–just from the smell?

Sortilège whispers vintage lily-of-the-valley out of the bottle, then powdery peachy aldehydes a la Chanel No. 5 trample the flowers to dust.
More try to bloom, some feeble jasmine, whimpering mimosa–the rose survives, bolstered by iris, but then they are bowled over by great gobs of amber with vetiver musk in the wake.

This makes me want a wasp-waisted dress with piping and a built-in crinoline, and wrist gloves with matching bows.


Le Galion released Sortilège in 1937, when Fred Astaire was hanging out at The Stork Club, famous for singing Gershwin. I prefer Lady Day’s cover.

 

Nirvana French Grey

nirvana french greyHerbal-sweet and sheer, and comforting, without any overt invitation.

Opens with a taste of upscale hipster lavender vodka, then the neroli blooms, delicate and sugary with a faint twist of grapefruit zest.

Stays at elbow length for an hour, then settles to the skin with rainwater musk.

Too fragile for summer, but it would sparkle in the snow.


This cover is equally as delicate.

Citron d’Erable

Citron d'ErableCitron d’Erable is exactly what Atelier Cologne says it is: lemon maple, with a sequoia base.

Opens with the brand’s signature burst of citrus: fresh sharp zest, with sweet custard underneath. Slowly settles to lemonade sweetened with maple syrup, which seems like a weird description, but it works in a lovely Vermont hippy way. Lasts a good half hour before fading into dry rich woods.

It’s very non-flirtatious and personal–wear in autumn on “me days.”


Macy Gray makes self indulgence necessary, rather than vanity.