My Funny Valentine

Today´s Valentine´s Day. This was supposed to be an exploration of some of the Neil Morris scents, which I find very romantic, or a post reporting on trying various foods while wearing what I´d imagine to be complementary fragrances, an idea I find romantic which was put into my head when we were talking about the Dolfin chocolate bars in the Eau d’Hermes post, and Divina said DSH Lumiere reminded her very much of the Hot Masala bar. Which I felt duty-bound to research, of course.

Instead, I´ve been home with two or three fairly sick children since last Thursday (strep, croup, fever, bronchitis, stomach flu, ear infection – choose your combo). It´s the high-maintenance kind of sick that involves crummy sleep at night, and daytime trips to the pediatrician, the pharmacy, and the grocery store for possibly palatable foods and liquids. Other than that I pretty much haven´t left the house. Today, God willing, they all went back to school, and I´m day two into my own round of drugs for strep.

The weirdly positive element (and yes, believe it or not, there is one!) is, at this level of onslaught I give up any pretense at normal living. We eat whatever, however, whenever. I talk a good game about my devotion to sloth, but the truth is on a day-to-day basis I seldom put down the remote controller to my little world and let things be. For the last week, though, we´ve consumed enough television and comfort food to alarm a panel of child-rearing experts, who I presume aren´t reading this blog. The kids flop around on the sofa eating saltines, drinking Gatorade and watching Cars for the 15th time. I go up to my little room in the attic, the only space in this house that is selfishly and entirely mine, a kid-free zone with an antique desk, a reading chair with an ottoman and good lighting, a couple of my favorite paintings (including a charming, third-rate oil of Kuan Yin I bought at a yard sale), and a small bed. It´s the warmest room in the house; when I’m sick, the kids know to find me there. I curl up in that little bed with Hecate, both of us feverish. I trace her spine with my fingertips until she falls asleep and I doze next to her, listening to the sleet hit the windows. It is one of the most powerfully, deliciously narcotic sensations I know. If I could, I would make it into a strange perfume.

It´s been a perfume-free week, because in the midst of all that sickness the smell makes us feel queasy. One of the few smells that pleases me right now is the cinnamon-violet smell of my blooming cattleya orchid (that´s it on my bedroom table, in the photo) which releases a powerful waft of scent at mid-day and then tucks its perfume bottle away again. On Monday I turned in desperation to my closet for something else that had warm, wonderful associations. My comfort-scent workhorses, even innocuous ones like KenzoAmour, nauseated me.

Which brings us to Annick Goutal Mandragore, done by Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen as a unisex tribute to mandrake, “a wonderful and mysterious plant, the mandrake that has inspired numerous legends.” Notes are bergamot, black pepper, spearmint, star anise, boxwood, ginger and mandrake. Mandragore’s dry simplicity turned out to be the perfect treatment for what ails me.

It´s not clear to me that anyone´s come up with a definitive description of the smell of mandrake, and the fragrance is bright, citrus-y and cheering; the only mystery involved is why they picked that particular angle to market the scent. To me there is very little development, and it is essentially bergamot and peppered grapefruit. I have heard other people complain about a urine-like note (helloooo, boxwood!) and others complain in a general sense that AGs don´t last very long on them.

If I concentrate, I suppose I can pick out the “anise” note, but I don´t like anise in fragrance, so I wouldn´t let that put you off (or reassure you, depending.) And while Robin at Now Smell This and I, along with some others, have been laughing about the current ubiquity of pink pepper in fragrance (it´s practically the new litchi), Mandragore is one of the first scents I can remember smelling that distinct peppery note and thinking, damn – what is that? If “pink pepper” signals a mild, tingly, slightly sweet note, then the black pepper in Mandragore is like having the perfumer stand over your plate with the grinder. It is arid, sharp and masculine. I adore it.

Unlike some of you, I came late to my perfume obsession. I smelled Mandragore shortly after its release, in their Paris store. It is the first time I comprehended that a perfume did not have to be conventionally pretty – or pretty at all – to be beautiful. Although I have smelled plenty of much, much stranger scents in the ensuing years, the smell of Mandragore always contains the ghost of that first cheerful oddity. For me it is (and I hope always will be) what winter in Paris smells like. I know that´s absurd, but it´s true and it makes me happy.

Mandragore is available in an Eau de Toilette and an EdP. Since the lasting power was never an issue for me, if you like the scent you might want to try the EdP, which I´ve been told is pretty much a scent dupe of the original, only stronger. It´s available in the handsome, square masculine bottle, which is my preferred presentation, along with the traditional bottle.

So, happy Valentine´s Day. I hope you get something delicious in a small, lovely flacon today. If you have a funny or cheerful perfume story to share with me (the totally wrong bottle you got from your lover, or the first time a fragrance really moved you, etc.) I’d love to hear it.

  • witchygirl says:

    Oh my gosh! Your orchid! It’s Fragrance Princess! I’m the one who recommended that orchid to you back in 2006 when we were talking about Shiseido’s Message from Orchids? Do you remember? You bought it, and now look at it – it looks great! I’m so pleased! I haven’t looked at this site in a long time. I have since gotten rid of my orchids in favor of cooking herbs, but now you’ve made me regretful…….come to think of it I never did pick up some Message from Orchids either. Hmmmm… to eBay. God, one visit to this site and it’s Lemming City!

    • March says:

      Yep, it WAS you! Look what you got me into, girl! Actually, this is the second time it’s bloomed, so I must be doing something right — “something” being putting it in a sunny window and ignoring it, for the most part.

      :”> So thanks for the recommendation.

  • moi says:

    Oh, I’m such a bum for getting here a day late and dollar short, but I simply had to respond: I ADORE Mandragore. What a scent. I don’t detect anise either, but, instead, an achingly lovely mint. It smells magical on my husband, although he rarely concedes to wearing any scent at all. Boo. Oh well, that means more por Moi.

    Happy post Valentine’s Day and hope you and your gang recover from the crud!

    • March says:

      We are slowly recovering, thanks! Those chest things are hard to shake … lots of warm beverages.

      I am always happy to hear from someone else about Mandragore love. And I know, the Big Cheese mostly smells like soap and skin, and I am not complaining. @};-

  • Marina says:

    please feel better soon! I am glad the babies are better!

  • minette says:

    not sure if it’s funny, but lately i’ve noticed that i actually grunt in appreciation when i smell something i really, really love. very much the cavewoman after all.

    first time i smelled jicky, i was taken aback. how could he have known what was inside of me and turned it into a perfume?! it really felt as though i had been turned inside out and wrung into a bottle. quite startling.

    hope you guys are all feeling better soon. xxx

    • March says:

      Yes, I have felt that way about perfumes! I really, really love the ones I feel like were created for “me” that way! It’s lovely, isn’t it?

  • grizzlesnort says:

    Mandragore is what I imagine Maguerite Duras’ “The Lover” wore.

  • March says:

    Oh, what a wonderful, wonderful memory! Lou lou in the glass bottle … I wonder if they still make it? I bet they do. Just the idea of it is like a hug.

    Ugh, good luck with the stomach bug. Two years ago we did that and it was seriously ugly.

    • BBliss says:

      Actually – I am not sure if they do – it’s all over in the plastic spray – but haven’t seen it in the glass bottle with the red stopper. Of course, that stuff is *potent* so I rarely ever use more than a drop or two. You’re absolutely right it just smells like a hug…
      Thanks this bug isn’t so bad – nothing like the infamous night of the red popsicles and the new Berber carpet>:p

      Hope you all continue on the mend this weekend!

      • March says:

        Ack, that sounds like the beginning of a Horror Movie! A funny one, though.

        I may have to try to dig some LouLou up.

  • BBliss says:

    Oh – your attic room sounds fantastic – I want one! We’re in week 3 of whatever latest bug is going round (stomach) – so yes, a lovely Valentine’s Day – but you are right makes for some occasional cozy moments – thank you for that glimpse of silver lining!

    Winter in Paris smells to me like Lou, Lou in the deco glass bottle – (and I’m 15 again, too – bonus). I take a whiff every once in awhile to transport me. It’s preserved well in that turquoise opaque glass – genius. Happy Valentine’s, March @};-

  • Malena says:

    march, i hope you feel better soon!

    happy valentine´s day to all of you:)

    i don´t have that much to say about mandragore – i like the bottle (the masculine one), but the scent is just okay to me. too refreshing perhaps if that makes sense 😕

    sometimes the beauty of something lays in it´s weirdness, the scents/people/things/whatever that don´t strike you as beautiful at first sight are the ones you learn to appreciate the most, because they aren´t so easy to understand – IMO.

    • March says:

      Definitely. Robin on NST said something along those lines today — some of the scents she’s found most difficult at first (or even disliked) wound up being favorites. It is those scents with the most character, often.

  • Patty says:

    I’m so glad all of you guys are feeling better. There is a certain bliss in just giving yourself over to illness… it’s out of your control, you just have to do nothing and survive. Takes like back to its basic elements.

    it’s been too many years since I got to curl up with a fevered little person

  • pitbull friend says:

    March, that was lovely. Though I’m not a fan of the purely anise ones (like Caron Reglisse), in Mandragore it’s just adds to the clear refreshingness. BTW, a scent that seems widely ignored though still in production, and lovely, is Shiseido Energizing. It also has anise, says the website! –Ellen

    • March says:

      I really need to give that a re-sniff. I think I see it periodically at the Shiseido counters, and I bet I’d like it.

      I was surprised how much I liked Caron Reglisse. There’s something very fresh and non-candied about it. It’s the black-licorice aspect, the density, I don’t care for.

  • Robin says:

    M, what a lovely review of Mandragore! Hope they really *did* all go back to school this morning…and you made it upstairs for a nap.

    • March says:

      Yes, and yes. No children here all day = bliss. Of course we’re coming up on a three-day weekend. 8-x

  • Girl-Woman says:

    I knew that I would find a beautifully written post when I came to your blog, but I didn’t realize that you would change my opinion about scents. Looking at the perfume bottle through your eyes has changed my whole olfactory perception.

    I hope this finds your family well and your senses back to normal.

    Happy Valentine’s Day.

    • March says:

      Thank you very much. The reason the blog is fun is the people who comment on it. And I hope you’re wearing something beautiful for yourself today!

  • sweetlife says:


    Happy Valentine’s, March. Thank you for this beautiful valentine of a post.

    Wishing you some days of rest in your attic, sans illness, soon.

    • March says:

      Going to sneak up to the attic in a half hour or so for a catnap! Seriously, is there *anything* more decadent? Maybe a little chocolate first…

  • alba says:

    Mandragore was my first Annick Goutal, which means it was one of the first perfumes I bought after discovering there was another world outside Sephora. I must admit that I wasn’t sure what to buy, and that the beautiful dark red bottle (for men) was the main reason for my choice. That bottle’s empty now, and I’m not going to buy another one. As much as I liked Mandragore, I could never love it. Somehow its undefined notes never really made me feel I was wearing it, but that it was just there, for whatever reason, around me, and for a short time. It’s a strange explanation for an imprecise feeling, but that’s what I felt.
    Get well soon, and have a great Valentine’s Day!:)

    • March says:

      I think that’s a great description, actually. I am always interested by fragrances that I (intellectually?) think are really, really beautiful, and at the same time I feel nothing when I smell them. And the relationship there can be really unpredictable. I’m impressed that you worked through a whole bottle, though!

      • alba says:

        No surprise there. Fortunately, these scents are unisex, and my husband did love Mandragore. I’m a great one for sharing!

  • donanicola says:

    Illness fails to make even so much as a dent in your beautiful writing style March – thanks for a lovely post and I hope you all feel better soon. I may have bored you with this story before but it is one of my favs concerning one of my grandmothers who used to remark that she could do with an illness but “nothing too debilitating or disfiguring” so she could stay in bed and read her beloved classics. I like Mandragore alot. I don’t own it but I’m happy to sniff it/spray whenever I’m in the vicinity of the AG counter. Such a beautiful bottle too.

    • March says:

      Exactly! Nothing too debilitating or painful (that’s what I hate about strep, actually) that requires bed rest and lots of hot baths. :d

  • Christine says:

    What beautiful orchids…were those the ones you referred to recently? The ones that were easy and fragrant? Because if that’s the case, I’ll have to pick myself up a few. They’re gorgeous.

    Usually when I’m sick everything smells terrible, terrible to me. So glad that the Mandragore is working.

    Feel better soon, and have a happy Valentine’s Day.

    • March says:

      Those are the ones! They only bloom once a year or so, so you have to feel like the wait is worth it. I got it from Norm’s orchids, I think it’s

      It’s called a cattleya, I think they’re the fragrant ones, it’s called “fragrance princess” and it smells, really, like cinnamon and violet or heliotrope. It’s strong enough I can smell it just walking past it, but the smell pops in and out over the day. An orchid grower commented last time that that’s very common.

  • I hope all the family is feeling fine now 🙂
    Happy V-day to you and all the team at Posse!

    Catleya orchids always remind me of A Cote de Swann…it was such a powerful reference. Love your pic.

    Funny perfume stories… I think I have divulged this someplace already, but when very young, while wearing Anais Anais my father -who has a very good nose- turned to me (while in the car) and suddenly asked “did you roll in gunpowder???”. I was stumped! And embarassed (was off to participate at a concert with the Conservatoire)!
    It took me almost a year to realise that what he was smelling was the Clerasil dabbed just in case on my forehead, which -yes, alas- contains sulphur…:o

    • Debbie says:

      What an experience! And great storytelling too. I was in the car with you. 🙂 Wasn’t it hard trying to get a good complexion? My permanent teeth still bear the scars of too much tetracycline from that ordeal.

      I think I also enjoyed Anais Anais in my youth. It is still one of my sister’s favorites.

      • Thank you Debbie.

        The funny thing is I didn’t even need the Clerasil all that much: I was completely obsessive, I guess ~I wanted to eradicate every little, tiny zit, now matter how imperceptible by anyone else! Paranoia, I am telling you.

        I was crushed that Anais Anais (which I loved) had received such a comment! Well, I got over it eventually, LOL

    • March says:

      That is so funny! Gunpowder! And Clearasil *does* have that funny smell, I hadn’t thought about it.

      A dear friend of mine wore Anais Anais, and I have very fond memories of it, although I couldn’t trespass on her scent!

  • Judith says:

    What a wonderful post! I hope you feel better soon–but I completely identify with you and others who have described the positive side of (not-too-serious) illness; for me it means reading mysteries under the covers, while drinking delicious teas. I am drawing a blank on perfume stories right now–obviously need more coffee!

    • March says:

      Reading. Lots and lots of reading that I never have “time” for. And lots of tea. Anything with honey right now is working well.

      Poor Big Cheese has just fallen ill. Not much of a Valentine’s Day this year!

  • chayaruchama says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful soul, Marchele.

    I’m transported to a week that echoed yours [ long ago]- pallets all over our tiny living room floor, everyone with scarlet fever [ good ole strep !]….
    Serial Aveeno baths in cold tubwater.

    Somehow, amid the fatigue, sleep deprivation, and fevered ministrations, there is a palpable, poignant tenderness that overwhelms the spirit.

    Makes me want to care for you in the gentlest way.

    Feel better soon, and know how utterly cherished you are…

    • March says:

      Thanks so much … yes, remember when? (Kids these days! They have no idea!) I can remember my sister and I and a friend all sleeping together on cots in the living room when we had chicken pox, my mother soothing me. And once, we had something involving a really high fever for days (they probably vaccinate against it now) and my father entertained us with the original Oz books (Ozma, etc.) It was *perfect* — those books are already so surreal, and to hear the stories while feverish made them that much more vivid.

  • Elle says:

    I hope you feel better soon! But…that attic room! Sounds unbelievably ideal. And this post seals it – you get my nomination for Mother of the Century. What extraordinary memories Hecate and all your children will have. Very, very lucky kids!

    • March says:

      Lord, you’d have to ask them about Mother of the Century. I think they’d give you the other side(s) of the story! I’ll concede you could do worse than me, though. We laugh a lot together, which is pretty huge, IMHO.

  • MattS says:

    My poor, sweet March…lots of love and comfort to you from North Carolina. Enjoy at least, your quiet attic room coupled with lots of solitude. My childhood bedroom was much as you describe, with the added bonus of a tin roof, perfect for rainy day naps. It’s some of the best sleep I’ve ever had in my life.

    How interesting you ask about being moved by a fragrance…I just got hit hard last week. I’d read of scents making people cry and that always seemed a bit silly to me, and while I didn’t openly weep or sob, I did tear up. I finally got around to sniffing Passage d’Enfer, a scent I’d never paid much attention to for some reason, until you finally said I had to, given my incense love. It wasn’t at all what I expected. I got so much comfort from it and I never really consider incenses as comfort scents, but most of all, it reminded me of my grandmother. Not old woman or grandmothers, but MY grandmother specifically, who is an amazingly cool a$$ woman, growing up in great poverty, the youngest of nine children, split apart following her mother’s death, living on a houseboat, growing up to become my grandma, introducing me to the Wizard of Oz and becoming a master quilter, quilting traditional quilts by hand. She’s been featured in museums and magazines and books and I’m so proud of her. But to get to the scent aspect, she’s never kept (ahem) the cleanest house and she’s dipped snuff for as long as I can remember and something about PdE spoke to me specifically of her. All it made me want was to be four years old again, lying down with my head in my grandma’s lap. And it made me sad, that as adults, we can’t go rest our head in our grandmothers laps anymore. PdE moved me like no other scent ever has and it completely caught me off guard and I haven’t even been able to sniff it again since that night. But I will. Because it’s beautiful and I love it. Thank you for making me sniff it.

    I do hope you feel better, my love, and I’m sorry I rambled on so long on this post.

    Happy Valentine’s to you and Lee and Patty and everyone. Much love to all.

    • Lee says:

      😡 for this ramble. I miss my grans. And my grandpas. So much.

    • Debbie says:

      I am very moved by your memories. Your grandmother sounds so wonderful. Mine was wonderful too. I miss her; I miss her softness and her scent. I miss my grandfather’s scent too and all of his love. I loved going to their farm.

      You know I’m going to have to try Passage d’Enfer now. In honor of your grandma.

    • March says:

      Oh, what a lovely story! Thanks so much for sharing it with all of us. Of course I wanted you to sniff PdE because you’re such an incense fan, and I think it’s such an unusual incense. But I never imagined it would prompt the kind of reaction you had. Isn’t it amazing the places in our heads that a perfume can take us? Sometimes those fragrances are so powerful that way that you can only dig it out periodically and sniff it.

      Every now and again I wish I could sit on my mom’s lap. 😡

  • erin k. says:

    march, here’s hoping you get well soon!
    one of the first perfumes to really bowl me over (and this is recent, since my perfumania is a fairly new occurrence) was nuit de noel. i take notes on the perfumes i try, so i’ll put an excerpt from them here – there’s a bit of poetry in it that i’m hoping will make you feel a bit better during your illness:

    “overall, when wearing it, i have a feeling of contentment that is oddly tempered with an exquisite longing. perhaps not so odd; maybe a constant state of longing is what true contentment is all about, what life is all about – always striving for more. more knowledge, more happiness, more beauty. what is art if not longing? and what is art if not the human condition?

    From Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens:

    She says, “But in contentment I still feel
    The need of some imperishable bliss.”
    Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
    Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
    And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
    Of sure obliteration on our paths,
    The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
    Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
    Whispered a little out of tenderness,
    She makes the willow shiver in the sun
    For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
    Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.”

    • Debbie says:

      Your evaluation has a lot of beauty and poetry in it. It sums up how I often feel about life.

    • March says:

      What an exquisite review of Nuit de Noel! And I know how you feel, the combination of “contentment oddly tempered with exquisite longing.” In a broader sense, I think that is a beautiful, apt description of what I want in my relationship with perfume (as a construct). Those emotions!

      And such a great poem to accompany it. Thanks.

  • Louise says:

    Couldja have left out “pustulent mucus” ? Just asking…:-s

  • Louise says:

    Oh, March, what a few weeks you’ve had. I had a tough enough time when my one child was sick, can’t imagine managing a crew. But as in everything else, you coordinate, comfort, and find the beauty in the everyday.

    I sprayed some Mandragore at Nordstroms the other day, remembering that you like it. For the few minutes it hung around (like all AGs on me), it was delightful, and even popped out a few hours later with a dry, sneaky tickle.

    Thanks for a lovely, warm post. When you feel better, and the kids are all healed, I have yummy cake waiting for you 🙂

    • March says:

      I am really interested by the way your sneaky perfume-eating skin has a way of running off with things and then trotting them out again later. You’re like my orchid up there!

      We are definitely needing a Neil Morris post. And some Cheesecake Factory. Next week is looking a lot less crappy, let’s make it work!

  • Lee says:

    Look after yourself. >:d< And what a lovely image of a mother - the precisely etched depiction of your vertebrae touching in the attic room sums up a) pure love at its most wonderful and b)comfort like no other. Makes me feel like crying with happiness at the world (in spite of the hacking and yakking, the sniffles and snuffles, the puking and mewling, the pustulent mucus and so on...) Love this post.

    • March says:

      Bleargh pustulent mucus.

      It’s that time of year.

      There’s an article in the paper this morning on all the flu epidemics on local college campuses. Ugh. Off to wash my hands again.

  • Kim says:

    Hope you are feeling better soon and that you have an easy transition back to the real world – it always seems a bit disconcerting going back to reality after being holed up for awhile, almost like the horizontal hold on the screen isn’t adjusted quite right!

    My first unconventional yet beautiful perfume was Paloma Picasso. I have loved it since it’s release and, to my then young nose, it was unconventional – not about flowers and it wasn’t Chanel No 5. That first sniff blew me away – the sharpness, the slight spiciness, the leather buried somewhere deep in there, and oh, the dryness of it 😡

    I still don’t know enough about perfume to be able to say what that initial biting, sharp note is, but… my, oh my, it never fails to take my breath away when I get my first sniff of it on my arm.

    • Kim says:

      P.S. Those orchids are to die for – are those the Trader Joe’s ones you have mentioned and how in the world do you get them to look sooooo gorgeous?

    • March says:

      Paloma Picasso! Now THERE’s an iconic scent. It doesn’t work on me at all, to be honest, but I think it’s wonderful. I don’t have the cheekbones for it, or something. It’s such a take-no-prisoners scent, I love to smell it on other folks.

      Nope, that orchid’s a cattleya (fragrant orchid) from or something. The TJ ones are the ones with those single tall thin stalks — oncydiums? cymbidiums? bananafannafofidiums? they pretty much have no smell (the ones at TJs) but I know for a fact that there’s a delish kind that smells like chocolate. The nice thing about the TJ ones is their blooms can last 6 – 8 weeks.

  • MarkDavid says:

    I know what you mean. Those 2 weeks in 3rd grade when I stayed home with the Chicken Pox – changed. my. life.

    I still love a good sick day. Does that make me sick? Probably.

    ISM is life changing, too. My next bell jar, definitely.

    • March says:

      And *another* vote for ISM. Yeah, you need a bell jar. Definitely.

      We’re all in such a hurry, you know? Multitasking. Sick days, provided you aren’t doing something really awful like … well, use your imagination, are kind of nice. CHicken soup and trash TV.

  • Billy D says:

    I have to say that all my movements (?) at the expense of scent have paled in comparison to my new obsession, Iris Silver Mist. It is the strangest, most gorgeous thing I’ve ever smelled. I love it, and even the other scents that have moved me before (L’homme de coeur, Bel Respiro, Fleur de Narcisse, Terre d’Hermes) don’t compare.

    I must say I identify with the desire to luxuriate in your sickness–there’s nothing like having the primordial excuse to do nothing without guilt. Like any other kid with an invincibility complex, I used to love getting sick as a child–I counted on strep every Thanksgiving. It’s been absent the past few years, which I’ve learned to be grateful for, but I still sometimes (strangely) miss the days when being sick meant taking a day off. Her kampf.

    Enjoy your respite from scent, as well! When you come back 100%, everything will smell better than ever.

    • March says:

      Iris Silver Mist. I think it’s mentioned a couple other times on here. ISM is definitely one of those stuff-dreams-are-made-of scents. There’s nothing tentative or unclear about it. It absolutely stuns me. Good choice.

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Hope you and your kidlets are feeling well again March! I have had strep throat twice, so I know how miserable you must have been feeling. The first time I had it, I thought it was a standard cold and didn’t do anything about it until I was in agony. Since then, it’s been a weak spot on my body & I’m always paranoid at the first signs of a scratchy throat!

    Thank you for choosing to write about Mandragore today.I love, love Mandragore. I can see why you would have found it comforting during sickness, since it contains ginger.Thankfully I don’t get any anise either, just something faintly citrusy, green with the tiniest hint of mint & a touch of pepper. The only thing that has kept me from buying a full bottle is the fact that it disappears almost instantly on me 🙁 I may still succumb. Those purple bottles are very enticing!

    • March says:

      That’s funny, I can still smell mine from yesterday, and I’ve had a hot bath in between. Things just stick around forever on me. Although sometimes that’s a real bummer.

      I’m paranoid about strep throat only because of the potential complications. We’ve been really well this winter, so I feel like I’m not in a position to whine much, though.

  • Divalano says:

    March, once again you’ve written out something I was thinking but organized it in a way I hadn’t understood to describe it to myself: “perfume did not have to be conventionally pretty – or pretty at all – to be beautiful.”
    And that’s it. That explains why I spray certain things on my wrist, know I couldn’t wear them but cannot stop smelling them. It happened first with Lonestar Memories, then with Cummings, & last night with Eau du Fier. Stunning & strange, all of them. And each beautiful in their own way (yes Lee, I even think the sheep wearing galoshes in the barn in the rain has a quirky beauty, lol) but nothing I’d call pretty. And that’s wonderful because for me, just plain pretty can get a little dull sometimes.

    And while I hope you all feel better soon, I’m selfishly glad you were sick for long enough to lay feverishly in the attic w Hecate & describe it here. I know you probably both felt horrid but that moment is now playing in a mind-movie in my head & it is just gorgeous.

    • tmp00 says:

      What does it say about me that I consider Lonestar, Cumming, and Eau du Fier everyday wear?


    • March says:

      Wow, I love the thread of commonality running through the fragrances you listed. I would love to smell them on your skin. I wonder if you feel like you bring out any particular common notes? Like, do you think they’re deliciously peaty on you?

      I need to give Oh Do Fear another try. I was horrified, in an interesting way. I bet now I’d love it.

      • Divalano says:

        I think maybe it’s an earthy tarriness, maybe partly from birch? There’s some bitter dirty thing in there. Just a little more & with not enough something to balance it & I can’t do it … like the Le Labo Patchouli.

        Yes, I’m going to savor my Eau Du Fier sample b/c I’m told it’s almost the very last one on earth. And at Barney’s today the AG rep started to swear to us that it didn’t exist, was never made, she should know, she’s been w the company 10 yrs. I told her to search on it & she’d find a cached page in Google from the AG Norwegian site. Ha HA!! Perfumistas-1, Barney’s SA-0

        • March says:

          Hah! I can’t remember which fragrance it was in Barney’s, but the SA called us over and the first thing he was going on about was how all-natural it was. We just rolled our eyes and moved on. And you’ve put your finger on something that drives me NUTS — particularly if an SA reps a specific line. How is it that you and I should/do know more about it than they do? I get bad info like that all the time — such and such never existed, never came in parfum, never came in the smaller bottle, etc.

          Have you tried the CdG Luxe Patchouli? Also, I wonder if those really smoky lapsang tea scents do much for you? Like CdG Leaves: Tea, or Tea for Two? Hmmmm. That smell always makes me think of tar. And have you tried regular ol’ Fahrenheit? Maybe too macho for you, but there’s some tar in a bottle 🙂

          • Divalano says:

            LOVE Tea For Two, should own a bottle, don’t. Need to try CB tea leaves thingie, need to get to Brooklyn, haven’t. CdG Patch … couldn’t force myself to put it on my skin, way past too tarry for me. Farenheit: really? Hmm. Afraid, actually. Now, must run, have VD date with Eddie Izzard.

            Oh, ok, not WITH. At. At Eddie Izzard. heh

          • March says:

            Yeah, you don’t strike me as entirely Eddie Izzard’s type.

            I haven’t smelled Fahrenheit in so long, maybe I’m nuts. Also maybe it’s too guy perfume for you.

  • Debbie says:

    I’m sorry to hear you’re sick; I hope you feel much better very soon.

    The first time a fragrance moved me…. Nothing in the department stores satisfied me. In fact, most were awful. One day while walking in the city’s newest mall, I noticed a small boutique. The display windows were filled with beautiful, compelling bottles. I had to go in. The salesperson and I chatted for a bit; I told her I’d like to learn more about fragrance. She offered Bal a Versailles to me, and I fell head over heels in love with the depth, the orange blossom and the wonderful sexy smell of it. I couldn’t drink it in deeply enough. I couldn’t believe the price of it either, being a perfume and not EDT or EDP. I took the leap and bought it, however. It was like holding an ambery jewel in my hand. I have never regretted it and still love it immensely.

    • March says:

      Bal a Versailles! I love your story! Bal a Versailles is one of those iconic fragrances I feel like every perfume lover should give a go with. I love the outrageous balance between those sort of candy-sweet top notes and that very dirty base. And the parfum is extraordinary, although even my cheap and cheerful EDP works wonders.

      • Debbie says:

        How wonderful to find someone else who loves it! You describe it well. (But of course!)

        • March says:

          Everyone. Everyone with a lick of sense should love Bal. ^:)^

        • cherriesinthesnow says:

          Add me to the lovers of Bal. I snagged a bottle of the EDP in the violin-shaped splash bottle on eBay a few years ago, and I dole it out drop by precious drop. I also have the “modern” incarnation of this, and while it doesn’t have the depth of the vintage (<> they never do, do they?), it still has that delicious flowery opening and the skanky drydown that makes this stuff soooo good. THe first time I ever smelled Bal was back in 1972, while I was living in San Francisco. I think maybe that’s part of its appeal for me as well; it reminds me of a wonderful time in my life. This is a perfume that I will never allow myself to run out of.

          • Debbie says:

            I’m so happy to hear how much you love it. I have ran out of it in the past, and I never will again. I thought maybe my love of it would have passed, but it hasn’t.

          • March says:

            It’s cool if you track Bal on, say, eBay, how many different variations of the bottle there are.

            Interestingly, hausvonstone in Germany bought an EdT and couldn’t deal with it, she sent it to me in exchange for an EdC. It is phenomenally ripe — so much so it makes you wonder if someone’s hand slipped pouring the skank in. Needless to say, I love it. :d

  • violetnoir says:

    Oh, baby! I hope all of you feel better soon. Believe me, I can relate to a sick household of kids, self, and being totally off-schedule during that time. You feel like you are in an insular time-warp of illness, from which you will never, ever return. But guess what? You do, lol!

    My darling husband ordered me roses from Pro-Flowers, but some half-dead lilies showed up instead. He was crestfallen, but I wasn’t. I love him for thinking about me. 😡

    I really, really want to hear more about the Neil Morris fragrances so-o-o-o…whenever you are ready, woman, I am.

    I love the purple Mandragore bottles, but I always think it will smell like “purple,” and well, it just never does!!

    Hugs and love!

    • March says:

      Weird, I think it smells sort of purple, can’t say why though. It’s not like grapefruit is purple.

      That’s so sweet and funny about the flowers! I finally asked (after a few years) no more roses, I’d rather have something that SMELLS PRETTY. 😉 Too often those long-stemmed roses smell like nothing.

      • Debbie says:

        Have you lived long enough to remember when they used to have real fragrance? They really did.

        My favorite roses, though, were the ones my mom grew. They were coral, and their scent was rose with spice. Really fantastic.

        • violetnoir says:

          Yep, I do remember, Debbie. My grandmother grew roses, and their fragrance was sweet and almost honey-like.

          Wow! Thank you for reminding me of the wonderful scent memory.

        • March says:

          I grow roses. I think a lot of fragrance nuts grow roses. My chief criterion is smell. I have a couple of climbers that are extraordinarily perfumed in the summer.

          My mother had an old-fashioned tea, deep red, and the flowers smelled like cinnamon. The rose died a few years ago, which made me very sad.

          I hear rose aficionados cruise old, abandoned graveyards looking for long-lost heirloom roses to take cuttings from.

          • sweetlife says:

            Oh, yes! This is huge in Texas, where there is a large concentration of rose fanatics. They are called “rose rustlers” and they go out on expeditions together with their shears and the magic rooting potions and such. There are whole nurseries just devoted to “antique roses.” I find the whole thing totally charming, funny, and magical. If I get to live in Texas until I am an Old Texas Dame I’m gonna be a rose rustler. :d/

            As long as global warming doesn’t fry us first. :-w\

          • March says:

            I’m going to mention this on Monday, thanks for the links!

  • tmp00 says:

    Well, I think I might have to get myself to Barneys and give myself a little somethin’ somethin’ because I don’t have a sig other. Perhaps Mandragore might fit the bill?

    Or maybe cake? :d

    In any case, you gave me a total comfort flashback with the description of your attic room; my room in my parents house was over the dining room. It had dormer windows and only about 8 foot ceilings at the highest point and would get desert hot in winter (no triple-zoned heating then). There was nothing so wonderful as hearing an ice storm pattering against the windows while the radiator clunked and hissed…

    Happy V-Day!

    • March says:

      Cake and Mandragore. I can’t see why you have to choose. You deserve nothing but the best.

      Can I tell you? I was in CVS yesterday (do you have those out there?) and they have a fragrance called Cotton Candy, in really cheesy packaging, all for $3.99 AND I think there’s a bonus gift. I was fascinated. I mean, think about it. The packaging has to cost something, right? Shipping? Taxes? So the ingredients cost, what, 29 cents?

      And of course I started to put some on and then remembered how many of my worst fragrance experiences started just like that…

  • MarkDavid says:

    Love that orchid! I had one, once. It died…when I killed it.
    The only thing I can keep alive these days is my Night-Blooming Cereus, oddly enough. Not exactly a “beginner” plant. Ive killed many a succulent in my day, too – how does one do that, you ask? Well, you forget to water it – for a few years. Pretty soon, it starts to think its dead. And then one day it actually IS.

    Alright, enough confessions from a black thumb.

    Mandragore. My oh My. This fragrance gave me a BIG wake-up call a few years ago when I tried it. It was absolutely love at first sniff. Im not a fan of Anise either, but its working so beautifully in tandem with some other-wordly goodnesses that I dont mind it at all. Definitely my favorite Goutal and probably one of the most unique fragrances I’ve come across.

    I also prefer the masculine square bottle. I have it in EDT for the nice bottle and EDP for the longevity. But really, I dont notice a drastic difference in longevity. Partly b/c I always drench my person in scent.

    Hope you’re feeling better soon!!! White tea is my saviour during bouts of this nature. Im prone to Bronchitis, myself. For 10 years now, its been a yearly event in my life. Never had strep. Knock on wood. I hear its hell. God love ya. Rest up, your attic-room sounds divine!


    • Divalano says:

      omg, you’ve made me need to go run & water my aloe NOW in a fit of guilt. Top shelf, kitchen window … hasn’t been watered in er mumblemumblemonths.

      “Pretty soon, it starts to think its dead.”

      *slinking off to water succulents*

      • MarkDavid says:

        I guess I just got used to assuming they didn’t need water very often. But then I’d always forget about them.

        Its for the better, I guess. There’s not a succulent around that fits my decor anymore. They’re all the wrong shades of green.
        Im a color-sensitive Interior Designer, alas.

        • Louise says:

          MD-you remind me of one particular succulent I had in college, that survived 4 years of endless moves and upendings, drought, and neglect(does PETA protect plants?-they should with folks like me around). It lived on through part of grad school til I finally took and left it out for air in Montreal-for the winter. 8-|

          • March says:

            Um … and how did that work out?

            Yeah, I left some houseplants on the porch last fall, remembered them in January … oops.

        • Divalano says:

          OK, so I wasn’t guilty enough to water it last night. This morning I climbed up on the sink to show pity & give water. You wouldn’t believe how much cat fur can stick to an aloe, for a moment I thought it had spider mites. Wow. I’m not sure what interior design color scheme green with pale brown dead leaves & greyish cat fur matches …

      • March says:

        Wait … you need to water houseplants?



        • MarkDavid says:

          Listen, as much as Im anti-faux plants, I can absolutely see the draw towards a silk Ficus. They require nothing from you. Granted, they give very little back – but then so does a succulent that you forgot you had for 9 months. At least you can’t avoid a tree.

          Part of me wants to think that what I just wrote is profound.

          Plural of “Ficus,” anyone?

          • Louise says:

            Hey, my faux ficus, er ficae, add lots of ambience to my shack. They’ll have to do, til I can get an interior decorator in to help. Help! :d

          • MarkDavid says:

            Put the kettle on – Im on my way, love.

          • March says:

            Ficae? Fakuses?

            I have two fake spider plants in these gorgeous mirrored cachepots in front of my fireplace, where umpteen other normal low-light plants had died. I think they look great.

    • March says:

      So glad to hear you like it! I don’t feel like it’s universally loved, which is fine of course. But I’ve had funny occasions where I’ve been out with someone and go, oh, smell this, it’s so great! Kinda tart … and they smell it and make this most horrible face.

      Oh well. /:)

  • mikeperez23 says:

    I can’t say that I like Mandragore (most Goutal’s and I, for some reason, don’t get along…I know, I know), but the scent that I can say I ‘fell in love with’ along the same lines as you did (new to niche perfumery, etc) was Ambre Sultan. As I’ve said many times on Basenotes, I had such a strong, emotional reaction to it after I sprayed it on at that little perfume shop. It caught me off guard! In a good way.

    This makes me think of that interview that Luca Turin said [when he was speaking about Nombre Noir by Shisedo] that when he smelled it the first time: ‘Well, it’s almost a person that I can see. You can fall in love with someone who’s not there. It’s such a personality, although there’s no person there. It’s as though there’s a hole in the air, shaped like this invisible person – that you are perfectly ready to dedicate the rest of your days to. There’s a presence there, a kind of hologram, that goes far beyond something just smelling good’.

    Happy Valentine’s Day March!

    • March says:

      I am always fascinated by the way people can react to scent; I wonder what it is that draws us? Sometimes the scent reminds us of something, but mostly I think it just pushes the perfect random combination of buttons in our brains …. great quote from LT, by the way, I’d not seen it. I can relate! @};-