Art of Fragrance lecture

By March

It’s been a crazy busy weekend, including Enigma’s 14th birthday bash, so this won’t be the world’s longest or most erudite post (update — oh, it’s still plenty long), but I wanted to blog about how much fun I had Friday night at the Smithsonian’s Art of Fragrance lecture, featuring none other than the Satan Sultan of Scent himself, Luca Turin, along with Tania Sanchez and Patricia de Nicolai.  There was another Smithsonian event, a perfume workshop, on Saturday which I couldn’t attend but would love to hear the details from anyone who did.

As is probably clear to most of you, I often find The Guide hilarious or insightful (or both).  No, of course I don’t agree with all their assessments, and – yes – it is their opinion.  I’m willing to overlook the few places where a review seems mean-spirited or incomprehensible just for the sheer joy of other passages.  I would hope nobody has ever wondered this, but no, I don’t get any benefits from mentioning The Guide on here, and Friday was the first time I’d ever met the authors.

The event was at the French embassy, and frankly I was shocked at how many people were there.  I’d sort of expected a room with 30 people in it.  We were in an auditorium, and I didn’t think to count the rows but I’m guessing there must have been a couple hundred people there.  Washington D.C. business attire was the dress, and a lot of people had clearly come straight from work, so picture a sea of navy Brooks Brothers, with a few bright sparkles from the more creative types.  I myself had selected a black-and-white-paneled paneled A-line dress, black leggings, and my naughty boots, and I didn’t fall on my face once that I recall.

Luca Turin in person is pretty much the charming raconteur I expected, and he did 98% of the talking, with Tania and Ms. de Nicolai joining in for the Q&A afterwards and a booksigning.  LT didn’t reveal any state secrets or change any lives, I don’t think, but it was a pleasure.   He either downplayed or dispelled the ideas of scent being an engine of reminiscence, like Proust and his madeleines, nor does he believe that scent ties into emotion in some direct, easy way.  He quoted from both writers and composers in his discussions, and pointed out commonalities among scents and the zeitgeist of the times they came from.  He did all this without making me feel like I was back in Econ 101 in my freshman year.

We worked through five aroma materials – coumarin (bitter almond/herbaceous); alpha ionone (woody fruity violet), habanolide (a very popular musk), dihydromyrcenol (green  citrus lavender, essence of Cool Water and a thousand clones) and gamma undelactone (a lactone, a sweet nutty/creamy peach as in Mitsouko).  He’s clearly interested in the chemistry and spent a fair amount of time talking about the creation and elemental structure of these molecular materials, along with his controversial theory of smell based on varying molecular vibrations.

I wasn’t documenting his talk like a reporter for the Post, but I loved how he talked about a perfume being a “continuously changing landscape” as it develops on the skin – pointing out the the evening’s audience, presumably not all scent freaks like you and me, that it’s not just one note (say, rose) you’re getting.   He also noted that in older perfumes, you might have to wait for the most amazing part, the drydown – he mentioned Chamade – but that in much of modern perfumery the dazzle is concentrated in the first ten minutes, which is when we’re going to make our purchase decisions.

Finally, there was a general lament about IFRA and the EU regulations which have forced various perfumes’ recent reformulations, which he’s blaming on the Danes (I think the committee originated there?)  He offered one argument which seems so obvious when he said it, and here it is:  unlike, say, over the counter medicines, perfumes are perceived as having no benefit, so therefore no level of risk is acceptable.  Putting aside our Mitsouko-hasn’t-killed-me-yet jokes, this frustrates and saddens me.  At least in the United States, chemicals and additives that are largely untested are put into all sorts of manufactured goods, including food, and we’re one giant, long-term study in their side effects.  How can this be?  Well, there were 62,000 existing chemicals grandfathered in under the EPA’s 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, most with no particular demonstrated record of safety.  If they could manufacture it and people didn’t promptly drop dead like flies, it could be in your cardboard cereal box or your bar of soap.

BPA was only recently declared problematic, although it’s been known to be estrogenic since the 1930s.  If I google the artificial colors present in popsicles, there are ones in there on the avoid list because there’s actually some evidence that they’re unsafe for human consumption.  I’ve no doubt that a small percentage of our beauty products contain surfactants or emollients that maybe we shouldn’t be smearing all over our bodies (as opposed to dabbing on our pulse points), and most any of you who wear makeup have run across something, at some time (probably an eye product or mineral powder) to which you reacted unfavorably, yes?   Thus I can, apparently, consume a potentially carcinogenic food colorant out of a plastic glass that shrivels the testicles and causes male amphibians to lay eggs, but I can’t have Diorissimo because some joyless suit in Copenhagen has decided that whatever makes it smell like muguet picked at dawn by Heaven’s choir … could give me cooties.  Maybe.  If I drank a bottle every day for forty years.

Anyway, after the event we adjourned to the lobby for bubbly and conversation – I met several gals from the Posse who came up and said hi, including StyleSpy, ggs, Dina and NozKnoz (and Mr. NozKnoz) – did I forget anyone?  I think some of them toddled off together for dinner, but I had to get home.  I did get a chance to speak briefly with Patricia de Nicolai about the vocabulary of scent – how there are perfume materials they work with that have no particular correspondent in nature (peachy, rose, hay) and are more abstract, which allow perfumers to explore new directions and push their boundaries.

While waiting for our lattes Saturday morning, I derided my hometown D.C. to Francesca as having southern efficiency and northern charm, a famous quote lifted from JFK.  (Yes!  I saw Francesca on Saturday morning for coffee and she was, predictably, interesting and a pleasure to talk to.)  But I admit I was pleased by the turnout on Friday night by our local blue-suit mafia, including a woman in the audience who asked a chemistry question that … I have no idea what she was talking about, although LT did.  Bloomingdales co-sponsored the event and they had tables set up in the foyer, and it filled my heart with joy to watch folks dive into Dior like it was cupcakes.  I myself spritzed a little Cartier Declaration Essence, and it was every bit as deliciously sweaty as I remembered, although Mr. Nozknoz found it a bit too post-5k-run for his tastes.

  • I read your column, and I read (but can’t remember) that part of the Emperor of Scent. Based on what you wrote, I’m more in your camp than his … of course certain smells trigger nothing but memory — we find those band-aids and play-doh in scent even when they’re not intended, as you point out.

  • Persolaise says:

    Thanks for the write-up.

    I’m with you 100% on The Guide: I don’t agree with all their opinions or approve of the tone in which they’ve written some of them, but taken as a whole, the book is invaluable.

    • March says:

      Yes. Like many guides to anything it has its flaws but on the whole it’s much more of value to me than almost anything else I could get on the topic.

  • nozknoz says:

    Ah, thanks for these link, ggs! I love the book and looked around on Amazon to see if it was available there but found nothing. You and Shelley have also filled in more important points.

  • ggs says:

    Thanks March for rescuing my (too long?!) post from the “pending” black hole, so it’s now visible ;)

    And Shelley, kudos for repeating the point PdN made about bringing the art of fragrance out of the shadows. I’ve heard other perfumers say this as well (and I believe Luca and Tania address it in their book): the new visibility of perfume criticism, the launch of Osmotheque with an educational and historical focus, plus educational events open to consumers (non-professionals!) is a paradigm shift for an industry that has always preferred secrecy.

  • ggs says:

    Hmmmm… Where’s the post I submitted this AM? Are posts being moderated these days (or maybe long ones, like mine?) It was about the Saturday program….

  • ggs says:

    Chiming in late, with more info.

    I think March got mixed up, and is thinking of my DH, who attended the Friday night lecture and sniffed the Cartier Declaration flanker with her. He’s a runner, so his reference for “sweaty” wasn’t perfume, he said ;)

    I attended both days. It was such fun to connect with several other perfumistas I only knew from the web! I commented on Dina’s MUA perfume board post on Sunday, that we enjoyed the lecture, but the Q&A period was too short, and I wish the Smithsonian had planned differently so that Tania and Patricia de Nicolai were given time to speak to the Friday audience as well. A brief presentation on Osmotheque’s work would have been appreciated by the Friday audience for example, and at least some discussion of their experience after publishing Perfume: The Guide by LT and TS wouldn’t have been “shilling” but would have been interesting to those of us who read it!

    PdN’s Saturday program was marvelous, and thank you to Nancy for the great summary she posted above. I plan to mail thank-you notes to the French Embassy and the Smithsonian’s staff, as they were so gracious and the venue was perfect. (It sold out, so now they know that they should offer more fragrance programs!) Smelling the re-created Fath Iris Gris and Rosine Le Fruit Defendu were highlights. Everyone was shocked at how “contemporary” the Le Fruit Defendu (circa 1914) smelled. I have smelled vintage versions of Coty Emeraude and Chypre which have lost the top notes, so sniffing the versions PdN brought was a revelation. If only Osmotheque could sell these! No one asked (per Shelly’s fundraising suggestion above) what the licensing or cost hurdles are that hold them back from selling re-created versions of historical perfumes, but I assume that the confidentiality of the formulas and licensing/copyright issues are barriers.

    One funny story: when we were sniffing the “soft ambers” PdN had us compare Coty Emeraude (vintage recreation) to Cacherel Loulou blue. When she said Loulou blue was quickly discontinued, Luca chimed in “Thank God!” which drew a big laugh. He also commented that LLB signaled “the beginning of the end of fine perfumery…the crack of doom…the beginning of low IQ garbage.” I really enjoyed meeting Luca and Tania, and their “color commentary” live was just as pithy and funny as their writing in The Guide is.

    Like Shelley above, I gently suggest that the Osmotheque is missing out on opportunities to grow their membership. A hand-out on Saturday that included a page on joining “Friends of Osmotheque” was an afterthought, and the Friday audience didn’t see it. Someone asked PdN on Saturday if Osmotheque has any “interns” and she didn’t understand the question. When LT explained it to her in French, she just said “no” the perfumers volunteer their time, and they have 2 permanent staff (She may have said part-time?) It seems to me that internships would be a great idea: get them working on translating the web site to English, completing the site’s online catalogue, and launching a worldwide membership campaign! Learning of Christophe Laudiemiel’s proposal to launch a US presence was very exciting. When Laudiemiel spoke Saturday at the end of the program (most of us didn’t know he and Christophe Hornetz were there, until PdN directed a question to Laudamiel) he said that Osmotheque is still unknown to many in the industry, and he would like to see it expand to the US and also sponsor an Academy of Perfumery in NYC. He spoke of the need for an olfactory education curriculum and a place for fragrance scholarship if we are to make perfumery credible as a serious art. He was open to collaborative efforts, saying he can not drive this alone.

    I also was intrigued by the book “Once Upon a Time…Perfume” that was published by Osmotheque, and describes historic perfumes & perfume houses, and has scratch & sniff technology (!) incorporated. I haven’t seen reviews of this book on any of the blogs; where has it been hiding? They had copies for sale Friday night, but quickly ran out, and told us on Saturday we could email Osmotheque to order it ( [email protected] ). After some fruitless googling of the book title, I just found a terrific article online from Beauty Fashion (by Sarah Colton) that mentions this book, and offers much more information on Osmotheque, PdN, and the proposals to expand Osmotheque’s mission.

    • Shelley says:

      The scratch and sniff has me intrigued, and I mean this seriously. Because my radar was engaged when I met a woman who was attending because she is a paper engineer, and called the Osmotheque book “the best, most sophisticated application of scratch and sniff technology” she had encountered, and had hopes for more/even better applications. Very interesting. Apparently, we’re moving beyond Smell-O-Vision. No, wait, that was pumped in; what did they call the scratch-and-sniff cards you were supposed to smell at certain points in the movie?

      Which means thank you for pointing out how one can obtain it; I had no idea. (How did I miss that? Must have been lost in something or other.)

      Yes, the intern question was clearly lost in translation. My non-profit ears/eyes saw an opportunity there; the question was posed by someone who seemed eager to be the first to sign up to help. Of course, again, perhaps the Oz folks are rather protective of their environs. Then again, websites and some other work don’t require you to approach the curtain, erm, vials…

      Which reminds me of one other point PdN wanted to make, via Osmotheque and talks. Which is that she hopes to lift the veil of mystery surrounding perfumery, to not hide what goes on. Because she believes that once you get a clear look at the work and craft going on, you will realize that perfumery is an Art. Which connects to what Laudamiel was saying about perfumery, his vision for a U.S. Osmotheque, Academy, etc.

    • March says:

      I haven’t forgotten you, I am considering this and your FB message at the same time and don’t want to just drop a short reply in here.

  • nozknoz says:

    March, I am intrigued by the mention of Mr. NozKnoz – I wonder if that was TheNoseKnows who comments sometimes on NST?

    It was awesome to meet you, the naughty boots, Dina, StyleSpy and other interesting denizens of the rabbit hole as well as those who were just shyly dipping that big toe in for the first time. I’m out of time tonight but eager to look up others’ posts on this, as well, over the next few days.

    I’ll ALWAYS remember the way PdN lit up when she told us Friday evening, “Get your noses ready, because tomorrow we are going to smell more than 20 frangrances!” Also, what she said about founding her own company – in those days, she said, there were no women of the Guerlain family working in Guerlain, and very few women perfumers, but she “found her way,” got the training, worked for different companies, and then, when she had children, founded her own company. She also called the Osmotheque her “fourth child.”

    Also agree with Shelley about the Parfums de Rosine Fruit Defendu. TS, too, was amazed by how modern it was, compared with its modern pairing.

    I SO hope Christian Laudamiel succeeds in opening the New York branch of the Osmotheque – PdN seemed very supportive. Every aspect of these seminars was excellent, but smelling the recreated scents was such a deep experience. I have vintage scents that I love, but the chances of finding vintages that old and in pristine condition are pretty miniscule. It’s like time travel, really, to be able to sniff these recreations. I’m so grateful to the Smithsonian, Embassy of France, Bloomingdales and the Perfumer’s Apprentice, and, of course, LT, TS and PdN for these two events!

    • March says:

      Nope, it’s a case of mistaken identity brought on by one too many glasses of liquid refreshment and some bad handwriting — that would be Mr. ggs. But what’s a column from me without some embarrassing mistake in it, right?

      It sounds like Saturday was an amazing event, and of all the recreations I would have loved most to smell Le Fruit Defendu. The New York branch of the Osmotheque would be amazing — can you imagine? Being able to go there and sniff? And yes, even the best vintages don’t smell like they did when they were young. Sad.

  • Musette says:

    Meant to ask: How was the Birthday Bash?

    xo >-)

  • Shelley says:

    Hey there…

    Nancy and StyleSpy have pretty well presented the highlights. (De Nicolai covers perfume families, with a vintage/modern pairing whiff of examples from each! Pastries and mimosas! Luca and Tania chiming in, and the Christoph(e)s being quiet but fabulous!) There was a small amount of PdN swag (less than a handful of atmomizer samples, BUT mine included her new one, woo-hoo!), and a bottle of Polo on the table. There was a pretty direct inverse correlation between the people who went all Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally” for the Iris Gris and those who were giddy about getting a full bottle of perfume. Which speaks nicely to the diversity of the crowd, in having-fallen-down-the-rabbit-hole terms. Though the numbers clearly favored vintage swooners.

    Given my aforementioned “permission to be stupid,” I stayed for autographs. Which went over better than my question for Patricia de Nicolai, “why emphasize ‘made in France’ on your perfume?” (She made a point of saying that was important.) Her response reviewed the importance of French perfumers and perfume houses in the history of perfume. My query was searching more for a sense of what she thought was peculiarly “French” about her perfume–materials, sensibility, something else? But I might have asked poorly, and it wasn’t her first language.

    And I was, of course, her fangirl, though I didn’t giggle or faint. ;) (Wait…did I giggle in front of Laudamiel?….)

    • March says:

      Thanks for the report! And I can see that maybe the subtleties of your question got lost, although … that’s two different questions, yes? And I’d have loved to hear the answer to yours — what makes a perfume French, if there is such a thing in terms of sensibility?

      • Shelley says:

        You know, I thought it was one question with the potential for more than one answer. (“What makes it French? Why, we source all our materials from France, for one thing…but more than that, there is a certain sensibility in perfumery that I think of as French, and that is…”.) What didn’t occur to me until just now–partially because of the emphasis she laid on it being *French* and how I read that–was that perhaps her response was exactly what she meant. That she wanted consumers to connect Parfums de Nicolai with the rich tradition of French perfumery. Period. Which, of course, isn’t an abrupt period, given the depth of history and influence, including the strong contributions from her own Guerlain ancestors.

        • nozknoz says:

          Agree, it was such a great question, but she did not really answer it. I’m wondering if there wasn’t a bit of a language barrier – sometimes it’s hard to both think about something and talk at the same time in a foreign language. Or maybe it’s just hard to say what makes it French when you ARE French and always have been, perfume is so obviously, tautologically a FRENCH art? ;-)

          The event was so wonderful, and actually they stayed about an hour longer than scheduled, so we got more than our money’s worth even without the Polo :-) but it wasn’t somehow very conducive to discussion.

        • nozknoz says:

          Shelley, this is sort of out of order – I think you may well be right that she said what she wanted to say.

          • Musette says:

            I’m still trying to get my mind wrapped around the bottle of 😮 !!

            Wonder if that was an Inside Giggle? Did Ralph underwrite this shindig? Even if so, he’s done way less terrifying scents – and some really nice ones (the original Safari, anyone?)

            xo >-)

          • nozknoz says:

            I’m not sure – Bloomies was a sponsor, and Polo was on one of the sample and sales tables the SAs set up after the lecture on Friday evening. How Polo and Polo only appeared at each place for the morning event was not explained. Some mysteries should remain mysteries, right? ;-)

          • Shelley says:

            {chuckle} I don’t know if the order is right, but I’m following. :) The more I think about it, the more I think either possibility could be correct. Maybe someday a native or excellent French speaker will follow up in her native language.

  • Disteza says:

    If I hadn’t been stuck working all weekend, I’d have attended in a heartbeat! Patricia de Nicolai is supposed to be back in Dec. giving a French-only lecture on perfumes; maybe I’ll make it out to that.

  • sweetlife says:

    Thanks for the great recap. It’s especially heartening to hear how many people were there. My guess is that people subscribe for the series, so maybe lots of folks were new to the subject? If so, double yay…

    Not sure I understand the anti-Proust/memory angle, though. I mean, I understand it in terms of heightening attention to chemistry and art vs. the “primal sense” stuff that usually gets bandied about. But I don’t (as usual) understand why it has to be one or the other. Especially when LT himself writes so movingly about his own sense memories. Not picking on LT in particular. I’ve seen this anti-memory argument elsewhere and didn’t understand it there, either.


    • Musette says:

      Yeah. What Sweetlife Said.

      That really makes no sense – everyone I know has scent-memory and nothing seems to trigger a long-buried memory like scent. Proust said it longest, of course, but I’ll bet that any one (or all) of us could write volumes on scent memory-triggers. Was LT trying to be deliberately provocative, do you think?

      xo >-)

    • Elisa says:

      I write a regular scent column and I wrote about this topic this month. I’m a total Luca Turin fanboy, but I don’t understand why he insists that scent has nothing to do with memory. (I do agree with him that scent’s not about sex.)

      If you’re curious you can find the column here:

      P.S. to March, this event sounds so cool! Wish I could have been there.

      • March says:

        Thanks, I’ll go read! As someone else pointed out, he talks about scent in context of his own memories all the time.

    • March says:

      I stumbled through that one, sorry, and attempted to right it above. Let me paste it in here. :d

      I think LT was speaking more about the idea that fragrance isn’t ONLY (or primarily) memory — that we can enjoy fragrance free of any kind of association or recollection, if that makes sense. I sense he was striving for a removal of some kind of required link to the past? He wasn’t saying that it’s NEVER memory, just that it isn’t a required, intrinsic part of the experience. My take on his words.

      • Elisa says:

        That does make more sense. Does anyone really think perfume is only about memory, though? If that were true, new perfumes would always fail. Everyone would wear No. 5 or Shalimar. :)

        • March says:

          I read your column, and I read (but can’t remember) that part of the Emperor of Scent. Based on what you wrote, I’m more in your camp than his … of course certain smells trigger nothing but memory — we find those band-aids and play-doh in scent even when they’re not intended, as you point out.

  • Rappleyea says:

    A really great re-cap and I wish I had been there! This is the kind of thing that really makes me miss living in N. Va. (although NOT the ex!).

    I hope NozKnoz shows up here to comment, but if she doesn’t, she had a great description yesterday on the Lazy Poll on NST of the event, especially the perfume workshop on Sat. It evidently included smelling strips scented with Iris Gris and Coty’s Chypre!

    • March says:

      We’ve gotten a couple reports from the field on here — StyleSpy, Nancy and Shelley…. I would have loved to smell the reconstructions, they sound pretty amazing.

  • Style Spy says:

    March. I cannot tell you how sad I am that you missed Saturday morning — it was thrilling. There were mimosas (in real glasses this time) and the pastry spread was divine. (I ate so many chocolate croissants that I’m pretty sure I left crumbs in my bed that night.) Patricia de Nicolai was extremely warm & charming. The presentation was divided into fragrance families and for each family they gave out strips with a vintage perfume and then a modern counterpart. The Christophes (Laudamiel and Hometz) were also there, which was kind of exciting, and Laudamiel talked about the founding of a NYC branch of the Osmotech (YES!!!) that they are currently undertaking.

    Theoretically I’m going to do a post on my blog, although if someone who’s a better perfume writer than me gets to it first (Shelley!!), I’d be happy to let them handle it. If folks are interested, LMK and I’ll come back & list all the stuff we got to sniff. (Chypre! Iris Gris!)

    BTW, I’ve been thinking, and I’m pretty sure those studded suede pumps you admired on the lady in the Pucci-esque blouse were Atwood or Zanotti.

    Lastly – Oh, I hate this, I’m a fourteen-year old girl – I sent you a friend request. ::sigh:: And thus the last of whatever tiny reservoir of cool I might ever have possessed evaporates.

    • March says:

      Oh, that sounds like soo much fun (and thrilled to be friended! The ones that confuse me are people whose names I don’t recognize. A little intro in that case is always helpful…) How were the reconstructions? They must have been awesome. Iris Gris? L’Origan?

      I’d have mugged that woman for those pumps, although the heels were too high for me to actually walk in. Also, you looked amazing but you know that already.

    • Shelley says:

      Oh, I got there…but not intelligently. You see, my theme is “I allowed myself to be stupid,” and just did a basic recap, with a little this and that. It did send me back to thinking about scent and memory, though, which I’m still macerating…and I find it interesting that apparently Luca spoke to that on Friday, March. Particularly since he pooh-poohed the idea, given that Patricia de Nicolai spoke of it as one of the the things that makes perfume not only perfume, but art.

      I’m totally with you on selling the reconstructions, and in fact was musing that the Osmotheque should offer members (only) an opportunity to buy one or two reconstructions a year. You know they’d be snapped up, and it could serve as a fundraiser.

      If they are listening, I don’t want a percentage. Just an amount of each issue. ;)

      • March says:

        I think LT was speaking more about the idea that fragrance isn’t ONLY (or primarily) memory — that we can enjoy fragrance free of any kind of association or recollection, if that makes sense. I sense he was striving for a removal of some kind of required link to the past? He wasn’t saying that it’s NEVER memory, just that it isn’t a required, intrinsic part of the experience. My take on his words.

        Gah, wouldn’t you kill for those reconstructions? There’a another one he references in The Guide (can’t remember what) which I’d kill for.

        • Shelley says:

          Yup, I remember him talking (writing) about the Emeraude reconstruction. I didn’t think to ask if the juice on the strips had been whipped up in the lab within the past year or so…but then, I suppose she’s not going to be inclined to bring over the last precious drops of an Genuine Disappeared, eh?

          I would. Kill, that is. Which is to say, I’d kill my reason and my budget. And I’d be happy. :)

      • March says:

        Emeraude. Daphne Bugey of Firmenich did it for some swank party. Apparently it was astonishing.

        • Shelley says:

          The Emeraude on the strip was pretty heavenly. And I’m not necessarily a vanilla fan. I love every whiff I can get of Tabac Blond. Coty Chypre, which I’ve been able to huff a couple of times, makes me shed a tear. And while I had A Moment with the Iris Gris (totally got lost), I was kind of gobsmacked by the Fruit Defendu. What a “there is nothing new under the sun” moment–a dense, rich fruity floral that makes me eat my hat for saying I’m never going to like a fruity floral. She had it as a “floral woody amber” in the oriental family, which explains perhaps why I snarfed it up.

          Of course, it is one of The Disappeareds.

          Bitter of course, the modern example was Angel. Angel is not in my perfume heaven, alas.

          • Shelley says:

            Ha! Intended to say “but of course”…the “bitter” just kind of appeared….

          • Musette says:

            Subliminal Truth!

            xo >-)

          • nozknoz says:

            Shelley, I thought the Emeraude was amazing, too. To me, it had a clear citrus note and was much less powdery than the vintage but still much younger Emeraude that I have been able to find.

            I think it must have been the Emeraude which prompted LT to muse that modern orientals had lost the balance between citrus and heavier notes (heavier notes not being the exact term he used). That was an interesting insight for me. That recreated Emeraude and modern SL La Myrrhe that LT also loves both have high notes, which is different, now that I think about it.

          • Shelley says:

            Hey, that’s a good point. (Mmmm, just pulled it out of the glassine to sniff again…I wonder how long these strips will last?) I had forgotten that comment, but yes, it is so true.

          • March says:

            How interesting is that? I wonder if I’d struggle with it more? And you know, those high notes die off first in the original perfumes, so to us it’s like they were never there in the first place…

          • March says:

            You are killing me with the Emeraude. I would have attended just to smell that.

  • Cheryl says:

    Again thanks for telling us…it sounds very intriguing and stimulating. What a fun event.

  • maggiecat says:

    Debby makes a great point, one that the growing faction of joyless people who believe their sole purpose of existance is to save us from ourselves would do well to note. And I love DC and am jealous you got to go to events like this conference (and the Smithsonian)whenever you want! Thanks for the summary.

    • March says:

      I heart D.C. Not all things, but the cultural things and a number of valued friendships. It stuns me that a fair percentage of people who live here in the burbs (as I do) never venture downtown with their kids — not from any safety concerns, necessarily, just too busy with other things. I grew up going down there with my dad, so I suppose for me that’s normal.

      • Musette says:

        That’s like when tourists ask me about What to Do Touristy in Chicago – and I draw a blank.I don’t think I’ve been to Navy Pier since they mechanized it and the Sears Tower has been called 32 things since my one and only visit, back in the Jurassic Era..

        I guess most of us who live in a place are too busy ‘living’ to visit our local sites….weird, huh?

        Like NYers who have never been to the Statue of Liberty

        Or Parisians to the Eiffel Tower

        or…well, you get the idea ;))

        xo >-)

        • March says:

          Well … okay, I haven’t been to the White House or the Washington Monument in ages. Those are things you go stand in line to get tickets for, so you can go in them and wonder if it was worth the wait.

          The National Gallery of Art, OTH (or the Smithsonian, Air and Space….) Those are FREE — no admission — and in the case of the galleries contain some of the finest art in the world, in addition to really interesting programs. How can people live here for 10 or 20 years and never go there? It boggles my mind.

  • Ann N. says:

    Great post, March! Love your anecdotes! And thanks for letting those of us out in the “boonies” share in events like this.

    • March says:

      You’re welcome, it was loads of fun, and I’m sure the Saturday event was glorious, I wish I could have done that! No doubt someone will be posting a review of that event as well.

  • pam says:

    Loved your article. I am so jealous and wish I could have been there.

    As to the formula restrictions they are coming up with: I totally agree with Debby H that wearing perfume is not required so we are doing it voluntarily. The risk is ours (if there is any). But there are groups of people everywhere lately who want to eliminate risk from EVERYTHING, which is not only impossible but is putting unnecessary restrictions everywhere. They are sucking the fun out of as many activities as they can!

    • March says:

      They want to eliminate risk from everything (an impossibility) and/ but they’re not EVEN THE RIGHT THINGS. I wish all adult consumers were required to take — I don’t know, a logic class and statistics and probability? Plus some sort of consumer science? My old example is a good friend years ago who removed apples from her daughter’s diet (worried about Alar) but let her ride around in the car with her seatbelt unbuckled because the kid didn’t like it.

      To which I say … wth is wrong with you. But we’re a nation of fear.

  • DinaC says:

    March — great write up of the event! It’s interesting to see what stuck in your mind and impressed you, compared to my own memories of the lecture. I wrote up my impressions Sat. evening for the peeps at MUA.

    The anecdote about longer-developing perfumes in the past, with the example of Chamade, stuck in my brain, too. It was nice to hear him mention one of my favs.

    I so wished that all the fragrant friends could have been there, and that the Q&A could have gone on much longer.

    For me, the biggest ah-ha moment was when he talked about perfumes that are well-crafted and spot on being louder — in focus — and thus, somehow louder, so you don’t need to wear as much. I thought this was valid. It’s like the difference between a trained singer who can project their voice to the back of an auditorium vs. an untrained singer whose breathy voice doesn’t make it past the footlights.

    I’d like to hear some details from those who attended the event on Saturday, too.

    • March says:

      I forgot that anecdote, which was a great one — I should have compared notes. It’s true that those great perfumes speak to us in a clear voice.

      I too wish there’d been more Q&A, and maybe a little less hard science. (should I insert the blushing emoticon?) But it seemed to go over well with others.

  • Sariah says:

    March – thanks for the recap! I had tickets for the original Saturday event that was cancelled due to Snowmaggendon. SO SAD.

    • March says:

      Yup, this was the one, and if I remember right we were buying these tickets around this time last year, yes?

      You must be somewhere with internets since you’re checking in.

  • Masha says:

    I’m so envious! I’m typing and turning bright green, so sad….
    But in a funny coincidence, I was at a party Saturday night, discussing with some German medical friends about how many perfumery ingredients are actually used as medicines here (myrrh, melissa, all the mints, clove, bergamot, holy basil, rose, it’s a long list), and how bizarre it is that these wonderful plants can be banned from perfumery, yet ingested or used in poultices or ointments without any problem. Just unbelievably sad, and so completely useless as well.

    • March says:

      I still don’t really get how they’ve managed to exert the reach to ban these items, of all things, but I guess they have — or more precisely to restrict them to certain levels. Perfume gives me such joy … although not at the moment. Hmm. I may have to shower.

    • Erin T says:

      Not to stir the pot, but this is naturopathic medicine, yes? Not that I doubt that there is mint, clove, etc. in “conventional” medicines, but I don’t imagine they are listed as medically active ingredients? I gather from a friend who is a naturopath that there is a fair amount of concern in those circles about these ingredients being banned for naturopathic use, as well, both in Europe and North America. Certainly, going past local health stores I’ve seen posters encouraging people to join the fight against banning holy basil and St. John’s Wart, etc. People should know that perfume is the thin end of the wedge: they’re eventually going to come for your Earl Grey or mint tea or your lavender linen spray. (I’m only half- kidding!)

      • Masha says:

        Herbal medicines are used along with big-pharma medicines here in Europe, patients are usually prescribed both. And if they (Vikings in Suits) come after my tea collection, they’d better be prepared for some serious rebellion!
        PS: It’s St. John’s Wort (not wart, everyone gets it wrong, but the Wart name is funnier and much more evocative!)

        • Erin T says:

          Oops, sorry, I did know it was Wort, actually, I just had a brain fart because my daughter was hurling various toys at me as I was typing… Thanks for the correction. And I’m protecting my teas, too!

          Do you mean that herbal medicines are prescribed by MDs, on Rx pads, in Europe? Pardon my North American ignorance, but I’m surprised and interested if that’s the case. We have “NDs” here (Naturopathic Doctors, my friend is one) and they use prescription pads, but it’s not generally regarded as the same sort of thing as big-pharma here by most people.

          • Masha says:

            Yes, they write them all up on the prescription at the same time, and they’re all meant to be taken together. Cool, huh?

  • So what reconstitutions did Patricia de Nicolaï bring over from the Osmothèque? Was it for that lecture or for the workshop you missed out on?

    • March says:

      Yep, that was for the all-day workshop on Saturday, which I bet was great. She seems like a very thoughtful woman, I’d have loved more time to talk to her.

      • Nancy says:

        Saturday’s seminar wasn’t nearly as big as the Friday night event. We had a large U-shaped table in the multi-purpose room. I’m guessing there were around 35 people. At each place was a copy of The Guide and a bottle of Polo as a gift from Bloomingdales. The embassy served mimosas, coffee, and killer pastries.

        Patricia de Nicolai did a walk through the fragrance families, using an Osmotheque reconstitution and a current scent to illustrate each family. The reconstitutions she brought were Eau de Cologe de Napoleon a St. Helene (1815), Fougere Royale (1884), Roger & Gallet Vera Violetta (1892), Houbigant Le Parfum Ideal (1900), Coty L’origan (1904), Le Fruit Defendu (1914), Coty Chypre (1917), Caron Tabac Blond (1919), Coty Emeraude (1921), Fath Isis Gris (1947), and Carven Vetyver (1957).

        Patricia did almost all the talking, with Luca and Tania providing color commentary as we sniffed. I thought they were great.

        At the end of the program, Patricia introduced Christophe Laudamiel, who talked about his efforts to open a US branch of the Osmotheque.

        All the presenters were charming and stuck around for a long time after the event was over to chat. It was tons of fun and we wished you were there.

  • Debby H says:

    Hi March,
    Fascinating – would have loved attending that event. Your writing is excellent as always, despite your crazy weekend!
    Re the statement: “unlike, say, over the counter medicines, perfumes are perceived as having no benefit, so therefore no level of risk is acceptable.” Doesn’t it equally make sense that since perfumes are not required for any benefit (medically, etc) and the person is choosing to buy and put it on himself, a level of risk *is* acceptable? In other words, I’m making the choice to put it on me, not on you and I don’t have to use it as it’s a want, not a need, therefore I could accept the risk. Hope I’m making sense – I can’t see why that argument isn’t equally viable, but maybe I’m missing something here.

    • March says:

      Oh, I agree with you, and I think we’re blurring two slightly different lines of argument — the philosophy behind the changes and the reality as it applies in the U.S. (not sure I’ve had enough coffee for this). My counter-annoyance is that things that are “supposed” to be safe, like cereal boxes and plastic containers, aren’t particularly safe. LT’s joke was to slap a “POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS” sticker on perfume which I’d gladly accept. Maybe the way’s being paved for new, patented (!) aromachemicals. Which, of course, will have no track record for safety.

      Or am I just too cynical?

      • Rappleyea says:

        If you’re too cynical, then I’m right beside you there!

      • Debby H says:

        No, not too cynical – you’re almost sure to be right, in fact (the aromachemicals). It’s all so frustrating – and especially because it’s so nonsensical. Anyway, thanks for the interesting article!