Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Fragrance

Excuses about not blogging for a long time aside (blah blah blah....right?) I've decided to get this going again. Third time's the charm right? Aside from perfume news and reviews, which are still to come, I wanted to start up a new spring series about fragrant plants for the garden. As spring quickly approaches the weather becomes unpredictable, birds build their nests, and there's an explosion of color and scent in the garden. Although many spring flowers do not have a scent, there are usually varieties that do indeed have the added dimension of fragrance. In fact some of the most legendary and expensive ingredients in perfume come from spring flowers, while others are relatively unknown to most.

(Photo above: Narcissus 'Brackenhurst' at the US Botanic Garden -- not a significantly fragrant daffodil, but a great early show-stopper)

1) Narcissus x odorus flore pleno (Double Campernelle Daffodil, Queen Anne's Double Jonquil)

The Campernelles are some of my favorite daffodils when considering fragrance. Anyone interested in scent in the garden needs to have at least a clump of them. One of the earliest daffodils to pop up in the spring, they started blooming here in Washington, DC in the second week of March. The are about 10 to 12 inches tall and the golden yellow flower can vary from a double cup to a yellow rose shape with many flowers on one stem. It's great to cut a few of them to put them in a vase and bring them indoors where you can really savor their sweet scent of honeyed musk. You really can't beat them.

Available from: Brent & Becky's Bulbs, Colorblends

2) Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon-Grape)

This relative of the hollies starts to bloom extremely early in the spring in Washington, DC (this year as early as early February) and they continue to bloom for a long period of time as long as the weather remains cool. The shrubs can be otherwise rather coarse in texture, but the flowers are their truly redeeming quality. The flowers have a sweet fragrance that is reminiscent of jasmine and lemon. It has a sugary tang to it and I personally cannot walk by a Mahonia without plunging my nose into one of the panicles of flowers.

3) Narcissus 'Carlton' (Carlton Daffodil)

Carlton is one of the most common daffodils and the quintessential daffodil that is the first to come to mind. It' s a great perennializer, especially in southern gardens. It's a large-cupped canary yellow daffodil that blooms early and profusely. Carlton is truly a sign that spring has arrived. This is the daffodil that lines highways and you find growing on old homesteads long after the homes gone. It's also the daffodil that you find in your grocery stores and sold by the American Cancer Society during Daffodil Days. It also has a slight fragrance as well, which is much softer compared to the Campernelles, but still worth mentioning. It has a warm vanilla sugar scent. Place a vase of unopened Carlton buds on a table in your house and by morning you'll have a vase of glowing daffodils fully opened and a wonderfully-scented room.

Available from: Brent & Becky's Bulbs, McClure & Zimmerman, and Colorblends

Many more to come!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Holiday Gift Ideas

At about this time every year all for the stores start piling up the fragrance gift sets, which always make a perfect and often reasonably priced gift for anyone on your list. Here are a few fragrance suggestions from yours truly:

1. Kai Bamboo Deluxe Gift Set - $195 from
Includes: Kai EDP - 100ml
Kai Lotion - 8oz
Kai Body Glow - 4oz
Kai Body Scrub - 8oz
Kai Body Wash - 4oz

For those of you unfamiliar with the Kai fragrance it is a very pleasant and versatile feminine fragrance that is sure to be fitting for many of your friends and relatives. Its notes consist of gardenia and other exotic white florals.

*If you purchase the set from LuckyScent You will also receive a complimentary Kai roll-on oil.

2. Comme des Garcons Incense Series Gift Set - $310 from

Includes all five of the Incense fragrances: Kyoto, Avignon, Jaisalmer, Ouarzazate and Zagorsk. All five are inspired by holy sites in different locations around the world and each is a totally unique fragrance. Kyoto and Avignon are personal favorites of mine and this is by far my favorite fragrance series from any house.

Each is a 50ml bottle of EDT all bundled together and wrapped in simple black wrapping paper and finished with a black ribbon and bow.

3. L'Occitane Gift Sets - $72.00 from (Verbena or Lavender)

These new gift sets from L'Occitane are exclusive to Nordstrom and includes 3 items: Eau de Toilette (3.4 oz.), Shower Gel (8.4 oz.) and Body Lotion (8.4 oz.). These two sets are my two favorite fragrances from the L'Occitane line and are probably one of the most versatile gifts to give to people who may not otherwise be very interested in fragrance.

There's some to get you started...More to come!

Hermessence Brin de Réglisse is available at Hermès Boutiques!

Just an FYI: I received a phone call from the Hermès boutique recently to let me know that the newest fragrance in the Hermessences line, Brin de Réglisse, has arrived and that they have samples available as well as testers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New From Annick Goutal - Les Orientalistes + DC Shopping for Annick Goutal

In December, Annick Goutal will launch a new set of three oriental fragrances that will be sure to add spice, warmth, and magic to the holiday season. The trio, called "Les Orientalistes" will be marketed to both sexes and were inspired by 19th century paintings depicting harem the grooming rituals of harems, which inspired perfumer Isabelle Doyen (with Camille Goutal) to create scents based on the traditional ingredients: amber, myrrh, and frankincense. The names of each of the fragrances are "Amber Fétiche," "Myrrh Ardente," and "Encens Flamboyant." All three will be available separately in 100 ml eau de parfum for €120 (~$175) or all three will be available in a set for €500 (~$725), which comes in a white leather box. No news yet of when or where to expect to find them in the US, but keep a lookout and I'll update as possible.

(image: NowSmellThis)

P.S. For those of you living in D.C.:

I recently ran across a large variety of Annick Goutal fragrances at a discounted price (~$50) at various Loehmann's stores in the DC area. Fragrances in the line available were La Violette, Neroli, Quel Amour, Petite Cherie, Eau du Charlotte, Eau d'Hadrien, Nuits d'Hadrien, Songes, Passion, Mandragore, and Gardenia Passion.

If you are wondering where to find the lines normally, Neiman Marcus has the largest selection of Annick Goutal fragrances I think. Also, Bloomingdales, some Nordstroms, and Saks have them as well. They are worth a try. For those of you obsessed with citrus try Mandragore and Eau d'Hadrien.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Blend Your Own Custom Perfume at Parfums Raffy

Parfums Raffy, an online sales outlet for discount designer fragrances and a few (non-discounted) niche fragrance lines (read Montale) also offers their services in blending customized perfumes. Unlike some other companies that make "custom perfumes" for low prices (such as Garden Botanika), which only allow you choose a one note in each category (top, heart, base) and that's all of your input, Parfums Raffy just offers a list of notes from which you select your favorites and then you even get to decide which notes to have in higher concentrations. You can choose from a list of about 90 singular notes to choose from and you can also order samples of any of the notes for $1 each if you wish to experiment with your blend before ordering. Once you have decided to order, just follow the instructions on the website and your 1.7 oz bottle costing $39 will be mailed to your home. I haven't tried it yet but I definitely will be.

Click here to read more about Parfum Raffy's Custom Blending

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Barney's Exclusives - Serge Lutens & Frédéric Malle

If you live in America and you love perfume you really need to go to the temple of fragrance that is Barneys New York. At the flagship store on Madison Ave, you need to visit the large collection of fragrances at the bottoms of the main staircase right inside the main entrance. On the right you'll see the Frédéric Malle boutiqe and L'Artisan counter and the left the Le Labo boutique. Anyway, the point is that there are two more recent exclusive fragrance launches at Barneys.

The first is Serge Lutens Chêne. Although it was originally launched in 2004, it has only been a part of the exclusives line (meaning only available in the Paris store and by mail order to European addresses). It is now available at Barneys' Madison Ave. store as well as through their website. Chêne (French for "oak") is composed of:
Top Notes: Sap Notes, Cedar Crystals, Black Thyme
Heart Notes: Silver Birch, Beeswax, Rum, Oak
Base Notes: "Undergrowth" Note, Tonka
Chêne is available in a 50 ml bottle of EDP from Barney's for $130.

The second is Outrageous from Frédéric Malle. Created by Mr. Malle himself and Sophia Grojsman (YSL Paris, Bvlgari pour Femme), the new fragrance is exclusive to Barneys stores and is not available anywhere else at all. It contains caipirinha, clean laundry, green apple, orange blossom, amber and cedar and is available in a 100 ml bottle from Barney's for $110.

My Own Sugar Scrub Recipe

I've decided to post my sugar scrub recipe. It's extremely simple, but very effective. You should note that it is only really appropriate for body exfoliation. It's too rough for the face. The recipe is not a science and it is really up to you to determine the relative amounts of ingredients. The ingredients are:

Turbinado Sugar (coarse organic sugar)
Light Brown Sugar
Carrier Oils (I prefer Vitamin E-enriched Sweet Almond Oil)
Essential oils

Now a few tricks to it. I usually make it fairly concentrated. It lasts longer this way and dilutes when you use it in the shower. There's no exact amount of essential oils to use. You usually only need about 4 or 5 drops of essential oil per 1 ounce of the carrier oil, but I find that adding more increases the fragrance and aromatherapy effect of the scrub. Use whatever oils you like, but my personal favorite is a combination of lemon (Citrus limon) and lavender (Lavendula angustifolia). You can formulate your scrub to treat a variety of skin ailments, for example acne can be treated with the essential oils of lavender, neroli, tea tree, clove bud, cedarwood, rosemary, and many others. This information is readily available online and many essential oils as well as the rest of the ingredients are available at organic markets, health stores, and any other purveyor of botanical health products. In Washington, DC area Whole Foods and Mom's Organic Markets carry a broad range of the ingredients. Of course, use organic ingredients when possible.

I usually use about 5 ounces of the carrier oil, to which I add about 30-40 drops of essential oils (of the desired blends). I then add both grades of sugar in equal proportions and keep stirring the mixture until I reach the desired consistency. I prefer a thick, but moist mixture that doesn't appear runny, but this is just a personal preference.

The scrub usually works best after you've used your soap and while you are standing in a hot shower. Using it after showering helps to return your skin to its preferred pH range and leaves more of the fragrance of the EO's on the skin. Be sure to store the scrub in an air/water-tight container and use some sort of scoop or spoon when using (the bacteria on your hands can speed the decomposition of the scrub mixture).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hermessence Brin de Réglisse - New Fragrance

Jean-Claude Ellena's newest creation for Hermés, Brin de Réglisse is the newest (and 7th) addition to the Hermessence line. On the heels of such beautiful creations as Paprika Brasil and Osmanthe Yunnan, Brin de Réglisse is said to be an atypical lavender perfume that is not overpowered by being combined with heady florals, but instead Ellena tried to create a drier, cleaner lavender fragrance. He was inspired by the strong scent of lavender one would smell in Provence in midsummer. Ellena said he wanted a more clean, stream-lined lavender fragrance. Other notes include orange blossom, hay, and licorice (hence the name Brin de Réglisse, or "a bit of liquorice"). Like the other Hermessence fragrances, they will only be available at Hermés boutiques and will cost 149 euros (about $211.00) for a 100 mL bottle. I'm not sure exactly on the US price, but that I will update this post as soon as I know the exact cost. Hermessence fragrances can also be purchased in sets of four 15 mL vials for 95 euros (about $135.00), for which you may select four of the same fragrance or any combination of the seven Hermessence fragrances. None the less I suggest you visit your nearest boutique and check it out. If you are in the D.C. area, the local Hermès boutique is located in the Fairfax Square Shopping Center in Vienna, Virginia. (They are usually quite generous with samples as well)

HO is back (Part Deux)

Well, It's been just about forever since I've updated this thing so I wanted to get things underway again. Summer was a busy season for me with college graduation, moving to Arlington, and starting a new job, but things are going well and settling down now and falls arriving, so I'm going to work on this blog a lot more frequently now. I am contemplating a name-change and a few other stylistic changes to the blog. Let me know if you have any suggestions.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Books You Need to Read....

There are three books that I've read lately that I feel I need to share. For all of you true fragrance freaks like me they are your required summer reading.

The first is the Secret of Scent by fragrance biophysicist Luca Turin. Luca Turin began writing perfume reviews almost on a whim many years ago in Paris. Always a sucker for any random tidbit of information he could get his hands on he started uncovering some discrepancies in the way the scientific world looks at the sense of smell. Through much thorough research and a lot of stone-throwing from the scientific community, Turin has reintroduced and expanded upon theories of a vibrational mechanism for the sense of smell. The book explains a bit of his background and the story of how he made his contribution to the theory and explains the theory in a fair amount of detail. It can be quite dense if you don't have much of a science background, but it's a good read nonetheless. The Secret of Scent by Luca Turin is available from Barnes & Noble for $23.95.

Secondly, the Emperor of Scent by New York Times Perfume Critic Chandler Burr. Burr met Turin by chance in a railway terminal several years ago. After much small talk, they struck up a conversation about Turin's work with smell. Burr was interested and as a reporter investigated the theory and Turin's story. Unfortunately, Turin's adversaries were unwilling to give their side of the story, so Burr's book is mostly a chronicle of Turin's story. A worthy companion to Turin's book, it should not be overlooked just because one has also read the Secret of Scent. The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr is available from Barnes & Noble for $13.95.

The last is The Fragrant Garden by Julia Lawless. The books is a great read for anyone interested in Gardner and/or perfume and fragrance. It includes many sections with widely varying topics. It's not just and encyclopedia of fragrant plants which a lot of fragrance gardening books are, but it includes much history about the history of fragrant gardening, exotic as well as domestic plants, information about essential oils and aromatherapy, and even some recipes and advice for the use of fragrant herbs. A great read for anyone who is interested in this blog. It is available from Barnes and Noble for $27.50.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

HO is back! + Reviews of Cococabana from Parfums de Nicolaï

I'm terribly sorry about the long delay. The last few months have been hectic ones (I've been moving, starting a new job, graduating from college, etc.) At long last, I have finally gotten around to starting this blog up again. I have to note that there are a few things I have decided to change. While I will try to include some news of new releases and such there will be a less comprehensive reporting of new perfume launches compared to other blogs like NowSmellThis. Instead I will be writing more random articles pertaining to perfume and botany and everything in between as well as other musings. You can expect perfume reviews and such as well as information about plants and specifically things that I find interesting that are going on at the US Botanic Gardens (where I work).

Cococabana: The scent of tropical flowers wafts towards you on hot, humid afternoons. You've deserted the crowded, noisy beach and instead lie by the courtyard pool of your hotel. In the distance you hear the waves pound the shore and feel the salty spray on the breeze. The chic boutique hotel boasts a beautifully maintained garden inspired by the ancient pairidaêza style. You sip your cocotini while the coastal winds whip the palms above you. You close you eyes behind your new sunglasses (your latest splurge) and feel the warmth of the sun radiating off of the cedar chaise you've made your own oasis. Despite the din of the other guests and nearby pool bar, you feel alone in paradise.

Presumably named for and inspired by the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, this 2006 release from Parfums de Nicolaï lives up to its name. Always a fan of summer scents I enjoy this addition to the Parfums de Nicolaï line. The main notes in the fragrance are Ylang-Ylang, Tuberose, Tiare Flower, Coconut, Cedar Wood, Bitter Oranges, and Palm. Tuberose takes the starring role dominating most of the play. It is a strong tropical tuberose which I personally prefer to some other fragrances that rely too much on tuberose combined with way too much vanilla. Although Cococabana does include a base note of vanilla musk, it is much more complex than that. Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) is a native of Mexico and a member of the agave family (Agavaceae). Yes, for those of you who are wondering Agaves are what tequila is made from. It is a fitting scent to dominate a fragrance inspired by Latin American beaches.

It is available from the official Parfums de Nicolai website or also from for $70 for 50ml (approx. 1.7oz)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

We'll be back soon!

Hey Everyone,

I've postponed updating Hortus odorifera for a short while because of the many hectic events of my personal life recently. I've been doing final exams and graduation things so I've been too busy to update, but I should be back on track in a few days and will put everything back up with lots of new posts. I promise!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Treasures from Barneys: Comme des Garçons Series 3 - Incense: Kyoto & Avignon

Last weekend I also got a chance to try out the five fragrances in Comme des Garçons Incense Series. The series was released in 2001 after the 2 previous series (Leaves and Red), which in my opinion were far less interesting that the incense series. Although they have been out a while and I've always wanted to smell them I never had the chance as I don't know of any places in Washington, DC that carry them. Well, that all changed when I (finally) got to go to Barneys in New York.

The five fragrances in the incense series (Kyoto, Avignon, Jaisalmer, Ouarzazate, and Zagorsk) were all inspired by five different holy sites representing different religions and regions of the world and the fact that nearly all religions have a history of the use of incense in holy buildings for both meditative purposes and to ward of the evil spirits. Of all five, Kyoto and Avignon were easily my favorites.

Kyoto: Inspired by the use of incense in both Buddhist and Shinto religious practices and the humility and meditative culture of the monks of Kyoto, Kyoto, the fragrance, is certainly light than some of the other incense fragrances in the series. I think that this may be due in part to its somewhat more "green" qualities and that I find it to be possibly the most exotic. The notes in Kyoto are vetiver, patchouli, coffee, amber, incense, cypress oil, teak wood, cedar, and immortelle. The initial burst of the fragrance is a inspiring rush of coffee and patchouli, however these soon give way to the dark, "incensy" woods at its heart. The combination of patchouli, coffee, and cedar probably explain why it's my favorite of the line.

I highly recommend Kyoto to anyone interested at all in incense fragrances. It truly will make you feel as if you are sitting in a zen garden in a Buddhist monastery. So spray a little on, close your eyes and feel the calm take over. (While you're at it check out some of Kyoto's famous gardens)

Avignon: Avignon, in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur in the South of France, was once the religious center of Europe as it belonged to the Roman Catholic Popes for 400 years (1349-1791). In the heart of Provence, its beautiful location on the banks of the Rhone River and its stunning papal palaces make it quite an inspiration for all who visit. It's no wonder that a city with such a wealth of Roman Catholic city should inspire a fragrance based on incense. Comme des Garçon's Avignon is a beautifully respectful and smoky fragrance that is not all dull as one may expect. Instead, like Giorgio Armani's Bois d'Encens, Kyoto is a remarkably accurate yet wearable (for men at least) recreation of the incense used in the Catholic churches of Europe to this day. The notes of Avignon include Roman camomile, ambrette, myrrh, cistus oil, elemi, incense, patchouli and vanilla. Unlike Kyoto, there is no initial burst when one applies Avignon. Instead, the smoky incense scent is present and one imagines that a priest has just walked by on his procession. The top notes progress into even deeper and darker notes and one can't help but think reverently about the grand cathedrals of France and Italy. Where Kyoto inspires a sort of connection to the peace of nature, Avignon inspires a a feeling of connection to the heavens above.

Note: If you're not finding yourself anywhere near a store that carries Comme des Garçons, look for them online at LuckyScent ($62 for 50ml or try a 1/32oz sample for $3)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fragrance News: Lacoste Elegance

In July (for US and Europe, September for rest of the world), Lacoste will launch a new fragrance for men. The new fragrance, called "Elegance" is part of a movement on the part of Procter & Gamble to move Lacoste fragrances out of their current sporty niche and appeal to an older, more upscale audience. The target consumer group for the fragrance is 30+ year old men.

The new fragrance was described as an oriental fougère with "aromatic top notes around a spicy heart, and a dry chocolate accord at the base." The bottle is simple with clean lines and a metal cap (not much different from other Lacoste bottles to me--except perhaps more conservative). The new line will be priced at about 5% higher than the previous Lacoste lines and will be available in 30ml and 90ml bottles. (From

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Treasures from Barneys: L'Artisan Parfumeur: L'Été en Douce

Last weekend, during my most recent trip to New York, I made my first visit to Barneys. Despite my having been to New York many many times, I had never actually made the trip to the flagship store on Madison Avenue. I have to say I have never had such a pleasant shopping experience. Barneys makes Saks and Neiman Marcus look like JCPenny. It's a beautiful store with the best customer service I've ever had. The fragrance counters are especially great. The SA's are awesome and very helpful (My favorites were Lawrence Applebaum at the L'Artisan counter and Tyler Mayo. I'm sure many of you know of the great lines that Barneys carries, but for those of you who don't I'll list just a few: all of L'Artisan, Parfums de Rosine, i Profumi di Firenze, Frédéric Malle, Serge Lutens, Comme des Garcons, Carthusia; not to mention a full Le Labo boutique. All in all, it makes other department stores look dull and uninteresting and I'm finding myself wanting to move to NYC just to be near it.

While at Barneys I did manage to snag two fragrances for my collection and add two others that I plan to get (when I can afford them):

L'Été en Douce: First, I bought L'Été en Douce by L'Artisan Parfumeur. It used to be called Extrait de Songes, but was pulled from the market after a trademark dispute with Annick Goutal (who first released Songes). It has been relaunched in the classic L'Artisan bottle and is currently only available at Barneys in New York under the new name "L'Été en Douce". It is available in a 3.4 oz bottle only for $125.

I have to admit that this fragrance is quite out of my normal preferences for fragrances, but I am wholly in love with it. Literally translated from French it means "the summer in soft", but the idea of it is that it is meant to portray that soft fragrant smell of early summer. This it certainly does. Upon applying to the skin, first one notices the vibrant top notes of rose essence and mint leaves much like the crisp fresh, but fragrant scent of the morning mist in early summer. The top notes fade into the heart notes of orange blossom water, linden, and fresh hay and eventually the memorable base of white woods and musks emerges. The combination is magical and although I often think orange blossom and rose are used far too often, it is not overtly floral. The floral notes are well-balanced with the hay, linden, and base notes. When wearing the fragrance I can't help but picture fields of Provence in June. The image is so strong you can smell the lavender, even though I'm not sure it's even a true note in the fragrance (it's not listed as one). Perhaps, it's the combination of mint (both in the Lamiaceae family) and some of the other notes. Nonetheless, next time you want to imagine you are basking in the sunlight in the south of France, just spritz yourself a few times with L'Été en Douce. (More info and reviews: Now Smell This, osMoz)

Reviews of others are soon to follow!