A Bach Christmas – IUNX- L’Ether and Cartier L’Heure Fougueuse

I want to re-blog a post that I wrote for Ca Fleure Bon some Christmases ago, it’s now, as it was then for those of you who find the time to read perfume blogs over Christmas; a Christmas card from me, with some musical perfumed thoughts, and the two fragrances which I associate with this joyful time.

To me there is no Christmas without Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (1734). It is the most tender and joyous interpretation of the Christmas story. It’s a mixture of texts from the New Testament, poems created especially for the arias and hymns from the common hymnal that everyone would have known at the time and still sings today on Sunday services.

Botticelli Mystic Nativity

Botticelli Mystic Nativity

The Hymns are special in that Bach gave them new life through incredible 4 part vocal settings, sometimes even with added slightly different instrumental parts, especially with the one verse in mind that these were created for. As great as the work is in its entirety, somehow it’s the intimacy of these simple hymns which bring the last bit of heart aching beauty to this glorious masterpiece.

Schaut hin, dort liegt im finstern Stall,

dess’ Herrschaft gehet überall.

Da Speise vormals sucht ein Rind,

da ruhet itzt der Jungfrau’n Kind.

Look there, he lies in manger drear
Whose power reacheth ev’rywhere!
Where fodder once the ox did seek,
There resteth now the Virgin’s child.

I love the theatre like text of this hymn; it invites you to look in on the scene from afar. The gloomy stables are discreetly suggested by the descending voice of basses and the warmth and intimacy of the words are painted with soft brush strokes of accompanying close knit voices. If a perfume comes close to this, it’s Cartier L’Heure Fougueuse by Mathilde Laurent. It is stables and the scent of animal and human warmth. It manages even the slight gloominess and dampness of that stable, and yet inviting us to come closer too, with all the cosiness of fresh hay and the enclosing cows and oxen. The hymn ends with the basses providing a rocking –like motion, to help the child asleep. If a fragrance could have a rocking motion, it would be the base of L’Heure Fougueuse. It is my perfect scent track to this song.

Fabriano Adoration of the Magi

Fabriano Adoration of the Magi


An absolute favourite of mine is the setting of this next hymn

Ich will dich mit Fleiß bewahren

ich will dir leben hier,

dir will ich abfahren,

mit dir will ich endlich schweben

voller Freud, ohne Zeit

dort im andern Leben.

I will cherish You assiduously,
I will
live for You here,
to You will I depart,
with You, at last, I will float
full of joy,
there in the other life.

This hymn belongs on the 27th, the third Christmas day. The immediate festivities are about to end, everything points towards the new year, a new time. There is stillness in the air and a sense of waiting; it’s a time of contemplation and reflection. To me the closest to this sensation is Olivia Giacobetti’s L’Ether for IUNX, because this incredibly soft incense perfume invites introspective thoughtfulness. In the hymn the most fervent desire comes to expression. Giacobetti being a master of transparency, she manages to create this fervour in an incense and saffron swirl, which floats like the tenor voice which takes a ’leap of faith’ as it raises on the word ‘schweben’ (to float).

In the middle of this almost spiritual swirl of fragrance there is a discreet rose heart, which to me, mirrors the sighs of the alto voice on ‘endlich’ (finally), and there is the golden hue of saffron which is softened by sandalwood. Even if this can be worn all year round, somehow it manages to sum up the soul of Christmas to me. A divine creation.

A very merry Christmas to you allDSC02603

*sample obtained by me/ given to me by Suzanne, see her lovely review of Cartier L’Heure Fougueuse here and Grain de Musc’s review here

Feature and bottom image my own.

The Greatest Perfumes Never Made – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

What is Christmas without fairy-tales and literary fiction, without the memory and scent of each one of those stories, be it the Snowman, the Little Match Girl, Nutcracker and the Mouse King or A Christmas Carol?

Everyone’s Christmas I imagine must sound and smell a little different; some of the sweet smells of my Christmas are that of glögg (mulled wine), oranges stuffed with cloves, spiced biscuits (the Danish; peppernuts and brown spiced cookies) and rice pudding with cherry sauce.

Recently ‘A Perfume Blog’ mused as to why there were not more Christmas fragrances out there, when after all flankers are abundant? And I want to wonder along…DSC02621

The only two brands bringing out a holiday perfume every year are the independent US perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz (this year’s called Vanilla Bourbon Intense) and the cheapo Yves Rocher. And then there is of course the one perfume which managed to manifest itself as perhaps ‘the’ Christmas perfume; Nuit de Noël by Caron. But apart from that there are hardly any releases at all focussing on the festive season. I must say I cannot think why not more perfumers want to create holiday specific perfumes; when you see how often Nuit de Noël gets talked about on perfume blogs and forums I would think it means we crave them- festive perfumes. Would Nuit de Noël get quite as much attention without its evocative name?

Surely if you can have loads of Christmas music, Christmas tableware, Christmas table cloths, not to mention many boxes of Christmas decorations etc., then why shouldn’t we own more Christmas perfumes? Full of memories and wishes, full of the many smells associated with this time of year.

A Christmas Carol will need no further introduction. Here an extract from Chapter Three, where Scrooge meets the second of the three spirits; The Ghost of Christmas Present.

“The Grocers’! oh, the Grocers’! nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses! It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, crashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour possible; while the Grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas daws to peck at if they chose.DSC02631

But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers’ shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker’s doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was! “

Top: tea, raisins, tart plum

Heart: coffee, fig, cinnamon

Base: woody notes, spruce and heliotrope, incense

Might this work?

What are your favourite Christmas smells, or perhaps even your favourite Christmas fragrance? And would you like more to see more Christmas releases?

A Happy and Fragrant Christmas to you all


*pics are mine

Diamonds and Pearls- 1831 Norma and 1904 Madama Butterfly Histoires de Parfums


If 1875 Carmen didn’t quite live up to its fiery name-sake, I am glad to say that today I look at two fragrances from the same collection which do.

I think I know no other opera which always makes me cry- it doesn’t matter which production or how good the singers. After having both done and watched Madama Butterfly more times than I can even begin to count, it still gets to me. If you’ve never been to the opera, Puccini is a great way to start, and I dare you to go un-touched by this particular drama…XJL208559

I LOVE iris, but I’m uneasy that slowly its potential as a main note has been fully explored, at least that’s what I feel when I think of all the new irises that I’ve smelled over the last years. ’It’s not you, it’s me’ as Pinkerton would have said to Madama Butterfly had this been anno 2014.

However, this one is stunning. It’s a pearly iris, sitting just between buttery-rooty and sweet-powdery, never too much one or the other. Starting off on a wonderful soft suede (leather bound book-) note, for the most of its life Madama Butterfly is a pale heliotrope and coumarin blended with buttery iris root and veiled violet. Discreet woods (sandalwood in particular) and musk are sensed more than actively smelled and towards the very end the bitter-sweet marzipan facets of heliotrope is what stays on the skin when all else has faded.

This iris is solemn, but smiling through tears hopeful that ’un bel di’ one beautiful day her Pinkerton will come back for her and her son. I don’t smell any hints at fake japonaiserie, and I am grateful for that. It’s not a shy fragrance but it’s a humble and contemplative one. Thankfully, in this version we’re spared the Hara-kiri though not the tears of longing.

Top Note : Italian Mandarin essence, Néroli
Heart Note : Absolu Orris of Florence, Heliotrope
Base Note : Cedar essence, Sandal, Musk


Norma 1 BELLININorma, the Bel Canto opera by Bellini with the main protagonist being the diva role over them all, comprising the great show piece aria Casta Diva (‘Chaste Goddess’).

This is a floral Aldehyde with a capital A. Gérald Ghislain has managed to tie together the two aspects of this opera; the diva status that the part of Norma enjoys, as well as the plot- the high priestess’ passion, the ‘antique’ of the setting and the pyre at which she and her lover end.

The aldehydes which open Norma are a fire-work akin to the bel canto style coloraturas. It is the aldehydes which this fragrance is about, they are retro-stylish and diva-like, and although there has been a revival of aldehydes of late, I have yet to encounter anything as sparkling and marble cold as these. No 5’s aldehydes as more fatty and rosé, they are closer to those of Vega but on steroids; Cat Woman sharp clawldehydes. Although I’m fine with my small amount of perfumes in this category, I have to admit, this opening blows me over, it’s frostbite and hellfire at the same time and a fitting pendant to the wild passions of the high Priestess Norma.tumblr_n9yztlgoNp1sr6ws1o1_500

The fragrance stays incredibly retro, by introducing what I perceive as a blunt civet-note. No civet mentioned anywhere, what’s mentioned is something about a forest with scents of rose and jasmine… yes, there are roses and jasmine too I’m sure, this is after all very much a floral aldehyde, they are just not very important. In fact, once both sparkling diamonds and civet cat have left the drama, the fragrance burns down to very quiet embers of musk, resins and patchouli.

Top Note: Aldehyde, Pink Pepper
Heart Note : Rose, Jasmin, Comorian Ylang essence, Cistus Labdanum
Base Note : Indonesian Heart Patchouli, Sumatran Resinoid Benzoin, Vanilla, Praline, Musk


*Samples bought by me

*Main pic by me, vintage posters of the operas found online. Callas and Marilyn enjoying a diva moment.

*The opera collection retails at 360€ from a.o. HdP site

Cosy Carmen – 1875 Carmen Bizet Histoires de Parfums.

Carmen is one of the most performed operas in modern times.

You make a collection like the Opera Collection by Histoires de Parfums, and dedicate a perfume to the femme fatale, I have to look at it from the perspective of characterisation. And I will.

The beginning is dazzling; a stage entrance. The citrus is radiant and the ginger has real bite. Little by little the luminous saffron adds to the overall feeling of stage lights so bold they would be worthy of only Carmen herself. But from here on I lose the thread of the compositional inspiration.

Matisse-Katia in yellow dress More this...

Matisse-Katia in yellow dress
More this…


The white flowers could have been beguiling and alluring, the mix of sandalwood a husky come-hither, and the wooden back drop with patch and incense the low register of the mezzo singing, tough and raspy. It is none of all that.


To me the main actors are a gorgeous smooth sandalwood and that luminous saffron note which turns soft and milky after the initial blaze, and perhaps even remind me a bit of tea. The white flowers cuddle up to the sandalwood and become all doe eyed, rather than femme fatalesque. The woods and patchouli gives off a tiny bit of earthiness, but still it’s more a picnic in the park sort (the sandalwood and saffron still at large) than gipsies and smugglers caves. The very dry-down is a gauzy honeyed amber, rendering the whole composition yellow from lemo cadmium ending in gold umbra.


Than this. (Carmen)

Than this.

Now, I actually think it’s fantastic that 1875- Carmen by Gerald Ghislain is not a truism. It’s not showing up wearing a black curled wig, red rose in hair and a dotted black flamenco dress with cleavage down to the toes smelling of tobacco and sex. Maybe I’m weird like that, but I’m weary of that old-fashioned interpretation of Carmen both on stage and in anyone looking to explore Carmen through other media*. But what I don’t quite get is exactly what this is supposed to signal. She might also be (according to Carmen-the perfume) vulnerable, charming, full of light and energy, but I would actually call both heart and dry down cosy. And I must admit I never saw that coming; a cosy Carmen?



Gorgeous bottle

Don’t get me wrong I like Carmen- the fragrance a lot; it’s a beautiful, warming, cosy, bright yellow perfume in the style of classic french perfumery that I would happily wear during all the cold months to come. I love saffron, and this rendition is different from the other saffron fragrances out there. The closest comparisons would be the Dries van Noten/ Malle which is way more unashamedly cuddly, double cream all fluffed up, and I’d say Santal Carmin is also both a bit cuddlier and has a more contemporary feel. It is with superb skill that GG has blended the saffron from the headstrong opening scene with the ginger and artemisia into the mix of sandalwood-softness of the second act. Bravo.


But, and there is a but, from the man who created Tubereuse 1-3, Edition rare (Petroleum, Ambrarem), 1740 Marquis de sade, 1889 Moulin Rouge etc. I did expect a gutsier Carmen. To a certain extend I do get that you can’t sell extremely daring fragrances at this price**; they have to please so the people with the real cash can buy. And that said, I can’t help but feel that the real ‘Carmen’ perfume was already created, and by no other than Gerald Ghislain himself. It’s called Tuberose Animale, and it’s not a cliché; it’s bloody grrrreat!???????????????????????????????


*No other opera has so consistently been denied a modernisation in terms of directing and interpretation. Stubbornly, directors again and again want the same dark curled man-eater coming out of the 1870s tobacco factory, and the same Michaela (José’s fiancé) to wear a blond wig, with Heidi- braids and a lavender coloured dress. Like with everything else, if there’s no surprise ever, then why go at all, why not just put on the cd? (Rant over)

** Yes, the price is joining in the recent Roja-trend, it’s a whopping 360€ for a bottle of 60ml. I’m not going into that debate just now, but I heard someone mentioning that this sort of price had become criteria to get your perfumes into the new uber-exclusive perfume departments at the most high-end department stores…

Disclaimer I bought the samples.

Attention RE-DRAW for Atelier Cologne!

First winner didn’t show up to party, so we have a SECOND winner.

Again, thank you so much all who took part and made this fun, and to the ones who cared to drop by and check if they had won and even congratulate 🙂

And the Oscar Atelier Cologne ecrin absolute goes to…


Thinking Magpie!


Please contact me via contacts page with your full name and address and your final choice of perfume as well as the engraving that you wish on the personalised leather case. Sorry but: You have  only 24 h, or I will pick another winner, because I want the perfume to arrive before Christmas and want to get other blog posts up :-).

Everybody else, I’m sorry, I hope there will be yet another time. Have a great December.


disclaimer: I did a random draw at Random.org, but couldn’t copy the list to make it look nice, so guess you’ll have to trust me :-) I entered everyone twice who had shared.

Foolish and Plummy Fatal- Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée & Vetiver Fatal

Imagine this; yours sincerely has just been baking Spekulatius from old wooden cookie molds ad nauseam, and that smell of spices and loads of butter and sugar would be enough for even the most ardent sugar addicts. With my brains thus exchanged for cookie-batter, I reached for my Atelier Cologne samples , and choose of all things; Vanille Insensée (Foolish Vanilla), the moment it went on the skin I realized that it was perhaps somewhat foolish to add more sweetness to my sugar-overloaded senses, when what I needed was something tart, fresh… But, hohoho, what happens is that this vanilla although sweet, is really not tooth-achy or syrupy, but grown-up and bright.DSC02535kopi

The opening of Vanille Insensée is about the blend of the citrusy-colognial notes with the vanilla lurking just underneath. It’s a fresh without stealing the soul from the vanilla pods. It doesn’t stick to your skin like a sticky toffee pudding, but floats just above it.

The citrus is exchanged for vetiver and again, it balances the sweetness of the vanilla beautifully, giving the vanilla a green and dry aspect that I enjoy. As it becomes ever more woody, it feels like opening the vintage wooden spice cupboard at your grandmother’s, taking in the smell of aged wood as much as the vanilla pod which must have been left open at this particular occasion. Towards the end musk and amber fluffiness is added but still manages to feel cuddly without being cloying.

Vanille Insensée is a non-cloying vanilla and would work great for anyone who likes to have their cookie and bake eat it, not wear it.

vfThe next one I reached for was Vetiver Fatal. A great companion for Vanille Insensée as it were, with its vetiver note in common. I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to layering but I’ve enjoyed wearing these two alone, as well as side by side over the last few days.

I like vetiver a lot, only, due to my skin often eating up sweet notes, leaving a lot of vetiver fragrances too sour, I am mostly left with admiring from afar. So when I first dabbed Vetiver Fatal, I was surprised when after about ten minutes of fresh cologne style vetiver, the fragrance suddenly started turning sweet and plummy. This is a truly gorgeous combination, which almost could remind me of a very distant, and younger, male relative of Therese (Parfum de). I keep thinking that I smell mint, but I guess it would be the violet leaf which with its metallic green tinge and in combination with the vetiver creates this effect. Vetiver fatale is nicely poised between the cool; hesperidic, metallic, verdant- and the warm; plummy, woody. It’s a fruity vetiver fragrance, but thanks to the juiciness of the plum and its velvety seriousness, this perfume too stays grown-up and never verges into Sugar-plum-fairy land.

alina cojocaru: sugar plumfairy. photo bill cooper

alina cojocaru: sugar plumfairy. photo bill cooper


Don’t forget the draw– you have until tomorrow Sunday to enter.

Disclaimer; the samples were sent to me by Atelier Cologne.

In a mixture of lack of time and the fact that the Atelier makes such wonderful art design for their fragrances- some of the images I just want to dive right into- I have used their illustrations as well as my own spekulatius pic.

Celebrating December with an Atelier Cologne Draw and Voucher Code

Today on December 1st I am delighted to host the very first give-away here on The Sounds of Scent. girl-surprise-puppy-cuteness

Having been on the receiving end of a draw I know how much joy it brings, so I am very happy that Atelier Cologne has chosen for commenters world-wide to be given the chance to win a really generous prize; A 200 ml AND a 30 ml Cologne Absolue to be chosen from the Collections Originale or Matières Absolues, or Sous le Toit de Paris (from Les Exclusives) + a personalised/ engraved leather case. It is one prize for one commenter.

I have not yet tested the range myself, so am very excited for the samples to arrive, and hopefully I will be able to write something about my own favourites from the line before the end of the draw.mcx-surprise-gift-1210-mdn

To be in with the chance to win, I ask you to do the following:

Write a comment to this post in which you let me know which perfume from Atelier Cologne you would choose and why, as well as two ingredients from this perfume.

You will be entered twice if you share this post on Facebook or Twitter, and let me know in your comment that you have done so. (If under another user-name than your comment-name, drop me a line- see contacts )

The competition will run till Sunday 7th and I will make the notification here, on Monday December 8th 2014.




There’s a great extra; should you want to explore Atelier Colognes further, here are two voucher codes which will be available for anyone to use world-wide for all of December.

1) THESOUNDSOFSAMPLES : This code allows you to have our
confection sample of all our collection for 10€ instead of 20€
2) THESOUNDSOFCANDLE : We offer an Orange Sanguine candle for every
purchase of a cologne absolue 100ML, 200ML, or for any gift boxes.

Good Luck

The competition is now closed- winner announced tomorrow 7-12-2014