‘Twas the Night Before Vintage Christmas 2014

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As has become a Holiday tradition for me I feel an unnatural urge to mangle the classic Seasonal poem by Clement C. Moore, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” For 2014 I am going for a vintage vibe. Join me for a Christmas Eve with some of the greatest perfumers ever, hauling Scent Nick around the world on Christmas Eve.

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Poodlesville
Not a Colognoisseur was stirring, not even a mouse.
The vintage flacons were arranged by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Scent Nicholas soon would be there.

The poodles were curled all snug in their beds,
While visions of bones danced in their heads.
And Mrs. C in her bandana, and I in my fedora,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I and the poodles sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window we flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

coty xmas ad

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of crystal to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight vintage reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Scent Nick.
More rapid than eagles his perfumers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Daltroff! now, Desprez! now, Carles and Beaux!
On, Guerlain! On, Coty! On, Almeras and Roudnitska!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As modern frags that before the vintage hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the perfumers they flew,
With the sleigh full of fragrance, and Scent Nicholas too.

caron xmas ad

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little boot.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Scent Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of perfume he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a sales associate, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like La Rose Jacqueminot, his nose like a Chypre de Coty!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a Crepe de Chine,
And the beard of his chin was as Tabac Blond as the snow .

The bulb of an atomizer he held tight in his hands,
And the sillage it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he spritzed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old perfumista,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

chanel xmas ad

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled the room with scent, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the remains of an eau de cologne.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

It is with a very full heart that I wish a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all the readers of Colognoisseur. Starting my own blog this year and having you here to share it with me has been a year-long present.

Mark Behnke

Book Review: Fragrant- The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel- Essential Oil Reading

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When I reviewed Mandy Aftel’s recent release Palimpsest she mentioned it was inspired by the research she did for her new book, “Fragrant- The Secret Life of Scent”. I received my review copy a little over a week ago and spent this past weekend completely enthralled by Ms. Aftel’s new book. This is Ms. Aftel’s fourth book on scent and it is by far her most accessible.

Ms. Aftel starts off with an introduction on how she fell in love with making natural perfume after a number of previous careers. She realized that scent was important to her and that she wanted to learn how to create perfume. She immersed herself in the history of perfumery and after her years as a perfumer she has come up with a simple truism, “Scent is a portal to these basic human appetites- for the far-off, the familiar, the transcendent, the strange, and the beautiful-that have motivated us since the origins of our species.” That sentence encapsulates what great perfume does for me and what it aspires to.

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Mandy Aftel (Photo: Foster Curry)

For this book Ms. Aftel decided to focus on five raw ingredients: cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris, and jasmine. Each ingredient gets its own chapter. It starts with a history of the ingredient but there are delightful tangents as well. One of my favorites comes from the Cinnamon chapter where she found a set of five rules for perfumers in ancient Constantinople. It directs where the perfumers can ply their trade so the pleasant smells will drift up into the Royal Palace nearby. They are also directed that, “They are not to stock poor quality goods in their shops: a sweet smell and a bad smell do not go together.” I think there are some modern perfumeries which could be reminded of these old rules.

The last section of each chapter is dedicated to experiencing the ingredient as a raw material and it includes recipes for different fragrances and ways to use it in cooking. For an even richer experience for these last sections; on the Aftelier website there is a Companion Kit which has all five of the ingredients to allow you to actually play along as you read. I received one of the Companion Kits and it greatly enhanced my experience. Plus there is enough to allow the reader to choose to use some in whatever way seems apt.

Ms. Aftel’s previous career as a writer along with her experience as a natural perfumer allows for a perfect synergy as the author is also the expert. It is an important distinction when it comes to describing a sensory experience in words. I believe it is Ms. Aftel’s intimate relationship with these materials which allow for her to communicate about them so effectively and beautifully.

There are very few books which can reach outside the small circle of those of us who are obsessed with perfume. I believe Fragrant is going to be a book which does have a much wider reach because it is as easy to read as a true-life adventure. For those of us who love perfume and the raw ingredients within them Fragrant is going to give you new perspective on these ingredients. I learned so much I didn’t know about ingredients I thought I knew a lot about.

The section of my bookshelf which houses the books on scent and perfume that I think are essential is pretty small. With the publication of Fragrant it just got one volume bigger.

Disclosure: This review was based on a copy of Fragrant provided by Riverhead Books.

Mark Behnke

Wetshaving: The Three T’s

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Every morning I go through three levels of fragrance. The first is the soap or shower gel I use. Knowing what perfume I am planning to wear influences what I choose in the shower as I try to match one of the base notes of my upcoming scent of the day. The second level of fragrance comes between my shower and applying my perfume.

Around ten years ago I made switch away from the commercial multi-blade shavers and returned to the traditional double-edge shaver my dad taught me to shave with. As I discovered the joys of what is called wetshaving I also embraced the joy of adding a new fragrant phase to my morning routine with the shaving cream I would use.

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Part of what I like about wetshaving is the reminder to slow down a bit in the morning and take care of yourself. Even though I can go pretty fast now it still takes longer to make four passes with my single edged blade than it would to do one pass with a multi-blade razor. I have learned to relax and breathe in the scent of my shaving cream and enjoy the feel of the brush lathering up my face.

When it comes to which shaving creams to use there is a simple rule to start with, “go with the three T’s”. Just like midtown New York perfume shoppers know the three B’s; Bergdorf’s, Barney’s, and Bendel’s; wetshavers usually start with the creams of Geo F. Trumper, Taylor of Old Bond St., and Truefitt & Hill. I have three that I use in heavy rotation although all of the creams from these three producers are great places to add a bit of extra fragrance to your day.

geo f trumper voiolet

Geo F. Trumper Violet Shaving Cream is probably my favorite of all the creams I own. It is a deep purple solid in the pot which lathers to the very faintest tinge of lavender as I apply it to my skin. The smell of violets surround me and it is as good as any violet fragrance in a perfume bottle. It wasn’t until Atelier Cologne Sous le toit de Paris that I found a fragrance which matched this perfectly. When I want to have a violet day it is this pair which is my go to combo.

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Taylor of Old Bond Street Avocado Shaving Cream is one of the most uniquely smelling shave creams I own. One characteristic of all Taylor’s shaving creams is their exceptional lathering ability. With the Avocado version it is so rich I often think I’m slathering white guacamole on my face. I use this as a companion to a lot of my lighter fragrances and as a base to slumberhouse Pear + Olive, the connection is sublime.

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Truefitt & Hill Sandalwood Shaving Cream is the most fragrant of the three T’s especially the Sandalwood version. The creamy sweet woodiness feels like it seeps into my pores. Even when I’m rinsing it off I feel like it has lingered longer than most of the other shave creams I own. I always shave with this before wearing Diptyque Tam Dao or Chanel Bois des Iles. It lays down a bit of sandalwood foundation for those fragrances to build upon.

Even if you don’t want to go full wetshave and still want to use your modern multi-blade definitely meet the movement halfway by adding a tub of one of the three T’s and a shaving brush to your shaving routine. If you love fragrance it truly adds an extra bit of it to every morning.

Mark Behnke