Baudelaire’s Love of the Exotic Natural Scent

tumblr_n2loykG7VF1rrnekqo1_500In 1857, French poet Charles Baudelaire published a collection of poems titled Les Fleurs du mal, or The Flowers of Evil. The poems are filled with sultry themes like eroticism, and proved too risqué for the times. In fact, not only were six of the poems banned for almost a century, Baudelaire was tried alongside his publisher for releasing poems that outraged public decency.

Lucky for us, Les Fleurs du mal in today’s context is a celebrated example of modern poetry. Its poems explicitly explore passion in a way that many current audience members embrace, viewing it through tools such as memory and scent.

Having been a student of both literature and the French language, I crossed paths with Baudelaire several times in college. But his works never quite hooked me like the works of some other French writers. I felt like the timing wasn’t right, as is often the case.

I’m not sure if I’m in love with his writing yet, but I have rekindled an interest in his poems. This started when I read a reference to him in the book “Essence and Alchemy” by Mandy Aftel. She writes about him several times, describing him as a poet who was willing to “write about erotic scent in an entirely frank way.” I turned back to Les Fleurs du mal to find poems referencing perfume in passionate contexts. For instance, in the piece “Lethe,” which was one of the six banned poems, Baudelaire writes about seeking refuge in the presence of an old lover, saying:

 

If I would swallow down my softened sobs

It must be in your bed’s profound abyss—

 

And earlier, he references the solace of his lover’s natural scent:

 

I want to hide the throbbing of my head

In your perfume, under those petticoats,

And breathe the musky scent of our old love,

The fading fragrance of the dying rose.

 

Much of the perfume that Baudelaire speaks of in Les Fleurs du mal is the natural scent unique to each human. To him, these perfumes evoke memories, passions, and comfort—as many scents do with me and probably you as well.

The love for a person’s natural perfume, be it your own or another’s, is a theme that has been embraced many times by the honest poet. And if you ask me, Baudelaire wasn’t the first. When Aftel praises Baudelaire for his daring mention of body scent in an sensual context, I feel that she fails to acknowledge another poet who was exploring this idea before Les Fleurs du mal was released. In his long, rambling, totally inspired poem “Song of Myself,” published in 1855, Walt Whitman makes several mentions of the arousing effects of body odor. One particularly famous line is “The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,” but that’s just one modest example.

I have more to say about scent and perfume in the context of “Song of Myself,” but I’ll save that for another post. For now I just want to praise the Possets scent Jeanne DuVal Mistress of Charles Baudelaire. If you’ve dreamt of a way to balance the potent, natural bodily scent with a sweet, wearable bottled perfume, this is it. Rather than encouraging the wearer to cover up their own smell, as aggressively sweat and powdery perfumes might do, Jeanne DuVal Mistress of Charles Baudelaire pays homage to the subject of many of Baudalaire’s poems by balancing musky, earthy, and sexy in one bottle. It seems to be just the type of balance that Fabienne had in mind when she created this blend in honor of Jeanne DuVal, and it does well to mimic the natural scent that turned on this French poet again and again.

 

 

A Yule Retour Spotlight

ac735009f11d84dc9936e12db9b1770aWhen I first met up with Tom and Jennie this fall, they were preparing to launch the Yule Retour. They told me it was all of the scents Fabienne had ever released around this time of year. I pictured a festive shelf decorated with pine branches and scarlet ribbon, lined with 20 to 30 transparent bottles of perfume magic. What modest anticipations I had for this Yule Retour!

Instead, the retour includes 180 unique and imaginatively seasonal scents. Tom invited me back over to the Possets atelier in order to explore the Yule Retour collection myself—all 180 bottles of it.

Do not get me wrong—I love to sniff things. I don’t just stop and smell the roses, I also stop and smell the tree bark, the spice cabinet, the puzzle box, or anything that might intrigue me. But as much as I love to smell things, the task of giving 180 scents the attention that they deserved seemed daunting. Nevertheless, I worked my way through the shelves of Possets Perfumes and experienced everything from the sweetest vanillas to the most pungent smoky undertones. After much deliberation, I managed to choose what might be my three favorite scents from the Possets Yule Retour of 2017. Here are the results.

Liquid Tinsel

If I place a drop of Liquid Tinsel onto my wrist, close my eyes, and sniff, one image immediately comes to mind. It’s a single fir tree, in the midst of its brethren trees but slightly set apart. Its branches are covered in soft, glittery snow, and the moon beams hit it like a spotlight. It’s a beautiful, peaceful sight, but it also looks a little tasty, like maybe the snow is actually sugar covering some minty fir branches…

But wait! That’s just the sugary peppermint note in the Liquid Tinsel perfume that gives me just the slightest carving for a candy cane. The peppermint mixes well with the sentimental Holiday fir smell. It’s the right balance of nostalgia, sweetness, and a little earthy sass from that snowy fir tree.

Lipstick on the Egg Nog Carton

You’ll find all sorts of food references in the Yule Retour. I was pleasantly surprised going through bottles like Mincemeat Pie and Meat Candy. But the one kitchen-related scent that I was particularly fond of was Lipstick on the Egg Nog Carton.

Eggnog is another one of those things that’s notoriously associated with the Holidays. I love a glass of eggnog—especially when you put a little rum in it—but would I want to wear it as my scent? I wasn’t so sure. However, this Possets Perfume found a way to my heart and my skin. The scent of eggnog is in there, and there’s not doubt about it. But that spicy, nutmeg-y scent blends well with a collection of feminine floral scents. Would the lipstick-wearing intruder be wearing such a collection of florals? Absolutely, and probably with a fur coat, too. Thus both the name and the scent paint a perfect picture of the wild and naughty refrigerator pitstop itself.

Saturn

Tinsel and eggnog? Easy Holiday associations. But Saturn? It’s possible that this scent earned its spot in the Yule season as a reference to the ancient Roman festival Saturnalia which honored the god Saturn between December 17-23. And to me this scent is what I would imagine a god wearing. It’s a little complicated, almost difficult to confront at times, but rewarding in its complexity. If you pay close attention, you’ll find a sweet and sensitive floral note, too.

I love the Saturn perfume for its unexpected nature, but also for the strange juxtaposition of a dark and mysterious planet with the warm and familiar Christmas season. If you want to take that juxtaposition further, try looking up the sounds of Saturn, as detected by the Cassini spacecraft, and listening to that after your favorite carol. It’ll give you a startle that’s just as attention-grabbing as this scent, but much less addictive than the intriguing perfume itself.

What are your favorite scents in the Yule Retour? I’d love to hear about what you’re wearing this season and what about the perfume draws you in!

A New Member of the Possets Team

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Happy Thanksgiving to all!

We are pleased to introduce Katrina, a multi-talented young woman who has joined our team. She will be blogging for Possets as well as assisting in other areas. Not only does Katrina have a deep passion for perfume, she is an accomplished writer and a touring musician. We are very happy to have Katrina aboard.

Enjoy!


 

Greetings, dear readers. My name is Katrina and I’m the newest member of the Possets team, here to put the words to the scents, and to gush about all things perfume. I can’t tell you how giddy I am to be here. I can, however, tell you a little about how it came to be.

Growing up, I saw perfume as a distant luxury, untouchable like a pearl necklace. I learned from my mother to protect my nice things. She never really had any perfume, but if she did I expect she would have kept it in its neat box, guarded from daily use. I, too, was always frugal with my fancy things—and for me as a kid that meant Bonne Bell Lip Smacker chapsticks. I’d save my favorite tubes of this ’90s staple for special occasions because I was too afraid to use them up. Similarly, when I visited Fragonard perfumery during my high school French class trip to Paris, I cherished my golden bottle of the feminine and floral Ile D’Amour so much that I barely used it. When my interest in perfume was recently ignited, I returned to the bottle only to find that a portion of it had evaporated. I decided that from that moment forward I would indulge in the ceremony of perfume regularly and liberally.

Before I became interested enough to check in on my fancy French souvenir, I found myself reading the book “Jitterbug Perfume” by Tom Robbins. The novel is a gritty, lively exploration of three competing perfumers and their passion for scent, as well as two lovers in Ancient Eurasia on the hunt for immortality. The book spawned my interest in the behind-the-scenes elements of perfume. I was struck by the wild devotion of the of the characters’ passion. One perfumer in particular, Priscilla, works as a waitress only to afford her expensive oils for her perfumes which she then mixes passionately late into the night in her tiny, messy apartment. The mad-scientist aspect of the process was appealing to me.

At the same time, another angle of the perfume world was working its way into my mind. In my mid-20s (speaking as someone who is freshly 28) I found myself spending a lot more time in the woods and being enriched by every minute under the canopy of trees. I grew more perceptive to the scents I found in nature, and began to make the connection between the smells and the plants and substances that they came from. Nature itself is so magical to me, and the idea that a person can forage bits of these ethereal woods and bottle them into pocket-sized vessels of scents is amazing.

My current personal perfume goal is to learn to forage my own plants for the distillation of my own oils. Along the way I plan to learn everything that I can about perfume. And no matter how many books I read, there are some things that can only be learned and realized from interactions with a like-minded person.

This is where Possets comes into the story. I moved to Cincinnati this past July. The city itself was full of hot, passionate summer scents—simmering sidewalks, street vendors, swimming pools, hot grass. Something told me that this city, with its history and its beautiful architecture and its lively art scene, was bound to have its own perfumer. A quick internet search lead me to Possets, and a brief email exchange had me sitting across the table from Jennie in a tea shop in the east side of Cincinnati.

Meeting strangers isn’t usually the most effortless task for me. As with many people, I get nervous and wonder about what to say and worry about how I’m being perceived. But my coffee date with Jennie wasn’t like this at all. She was immediately warm, kind, interested, and excited to tell me about her recently inherited business. We talked for a few hours, about perfume and about other things. She told me all about Fabienne and the wonderful influence she had and continues to have on people all over the world, both with her scents and her amicable personality. Before I left, Jennie handed me a few Possets samples and we made plans for me to meet her husband Tom and to see the space where the perfume magic happens.

A few weeks and one equally warm lunch date with Tom and Jennie later, I found myself standing in an understated room filled with good vibes and good smells. Tom was opening the cabinets that held the library of scents and oils that Fabienne had been building for so many years. He pulled bottle after bottle—Oud, Honeysuckle, Sandalwood, Amber, Black Pepper, Neroli—and we sniffed and discussed our impressions. We were like giddy kids discovering candy for the first time.

In fact, I imagine that learning about all of the oils and their stories feels similar to if I were to have eaten nothing but protein shakes all my life and were discovering vegetables, fruits, and grains for the first time. There are so many possibilities, and so many different stories and symphonies of scent that can be concocted, and still so many amazing Possets scents already there to sniff and explore. It’s like waking up to a whole new dimension. It’s obvious that Jennie and Tom are equally inspired by and dedicated to this world of scent. I’ve seen the way they discuss their line of perfumes—Possets is in excellent, caring hands.

As for me, I couldn’t be happier to have found a couple of people who are equally interested in discussing how cool it is that, for instance, the sticky essence of labdanum was originally collected from the beards of goats who had been grazing on the cistus shrubs. (Neat, huh?) I’m so excited to be here learning and gushing with every reader who shares the same perfume obsession as we do. For now, I’m off to smell more of these Possets samples that Tom passed along…

The Elements of Scent-Resinous/Oriental

Vying for #1 status of best loved categories of perfume is resinous. These are most popular when the weather turns cold and they feel right then due to their heavy long lasting aroma.

Out of all the kinds of perfumes that “indy” perfumers do, I think that the resinous category is the most successful. I really cannot think of a big commercial perfume house which produces a more sensuous and beautiful blend than the small independent makers. Part of that success is fueled by the fact that indies will use expensive and premium ingredients whereas big commercial houses see the market as too small to go all out on great ingredients so they try to finesse the richness of scents with cheaper and more man-made things. Indy houses will also go for unusual ingredients, which is rare among large houses; so you might see turmeric or saffron added to a blend and actually be able to smell it down in there!

I also notice that the perfume itself is often thicker, darker, and stickier than anything the big houses come out with. Why? Those are the real ingredients, and not the cheap carrier alcohol. Actually, I never use alcohol as a carrier as it’s too strong and self assertive, and it burns away the top notes too quickly for my taste. I prefer the lingering idea of oil as a base on which to build my product, it makes the elements of a perfume last longer and it has no scent of its own to interfere with the blend I am making.

Please note that Possets Perfume is Vegan and Never Ever Tested On Animals. We are also proud to say that we are transitioning over from any plastic containers to all glass, better for everyone and everything from every point of view. To find out more of the good stuff we are doing, please visit our FAQS on http://www.possets.com.

Discover Possets and take a look at our listing for 100% Natural scents, we are very good at them. Take a tour of each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. Http:www.possets.com

The Elements of Scent-Natural Perfume

I started my perfuming career as a natural perfumer, actually I was studying aromatherapy and had a nice little following in my area (this was before the internet). The name of the company was Possets and I sold my perfume in one store which was opened one night a month! Nevertheless, the desire was there for great quality natural perfume and I was filling a need. Fast forward many years, and I am still making and selling 100% Natural perfume,and there is still a need.

I find it more difficult to come up with a great natural blend for several natural reasons! First, the quality of a batch of essential oils can vary wildly from one year to another. Rose oil is a real “crap shoot” with the same vendor and origin being divine one year and meh the next. I think this is either due to growing conditions, political unrest, adulteration of a bad year’s essential oil by second rate “extender” essential oils, the vendor changes hands and the new owners don’t take as much care as the original owners did, labor shortages (especially for essential oils which are very labor intense like enflourage), and diseases of the plants which produce the oils.

Another reason why it’s hard to produce a great natural perfume is that the consumer demands certain scents and some of them cannot really be mimicked in natural ingredients. I have never smelled a successful “modern hard musk” natural for instance. They just don’t come that aggressive; by nature, naturals are softer and more emollient. To try to make a natural into a modern is like making a sow’s ear out of a silk purse.

There is a smaller number of notes from which to draw. With man mades, the sky is the limit. With naturals, you have a very finite number of elements you can add to the perfume. Several hundred elements might seem like a wonderful great field on which to play, but when you are used to fine tuning with thousands of accords, you feel like you are in a straight jacket.

Well, with all those caveats, why do I still make 100% Naturals? They are the BEST when it comes to the classic blends. You can’t beat a natural chypre, there is just something magic and perfect about a perfume like The Observatory, it’s the difference between lovingly polished old wood and perfect reproduction Pergo.

100% Naturals are a challenge which often makes me consider a combination which I would have never ever tried. I got some red cedar essential oil which made me start daydreaming about “dancing partners” for it. A great essential can be a wild springboard for creativity.

Ofttimes, you will get something in essential oil, etc., which you will never ever find among the man made accords. I got something called muhuhu and fell in love. What does it smell like? It is the exact scent of a glossy paged hard bound comic book I had when I was a child. It was only printed in black and white and I just loved to smell the pages, they were so exotic. Maybe there was muhuhu oil used in the inks, or the processing of the paper but that smell has stayed with me as a comforting and pleasant scent and now I can use it in my work. No man made maker in their right mind is going to use that in their work, and I can only find it in the naturals.

Please note that Possets Perfume is Vegan and Never Ever Tested On Animals. We are also proud to say that we are transitioning over from any plastic containers to all glass, better for everyone and everything from every point of view. To find out more of the good stuff we are doing, please visit our FAQS on http://www.possets.com.

Discover Possets and take a look at our listing for 100% Natural scents, we are very good at them. Take a tour of each of the scent families and it’s just fun going through the list of perfumes on offer. Http:www.possets.com

Middle Eastern Incense–The Final Essentials

Great fun burning Eastern incense. Here are some things you will need to do just that. One is sort of surprising!

Fabienne Christenson has visited Dubai and the perfume market in Dubai. She has collected bakhoor, burned it, had long conversations with citizens of the United Arab Emirates about it, and has a few interesting asides. This blog will probably amuse you highly. Also, the series The Elements of Scent will continue as well. In the meantime, take a look at the main Possets site where there is plenty of Eastern (Oriental) inspired perfume as well as those of the West. Http://www.possets.com

How To Burn Middle Eastern Incense (Bakoor or Frankincense) Part 2

Now that you know how to get the charcoal started, it’s time to put a bit of incense on the fire and see what happens. In this video I will show you the proper way to burn frankincense without letting it get acrid from exposure to too high heat. Burning bakhoor will also be explored and I will show you my favorite kind of bakhoor, too.

Fabienne Christenson has visited Dubai and the perfume market in Dubai. She has collected bakhoor, burned it, had long conversations with citiznes of the United Arab Emirates about it, and has a few interesting asides. This blog will probably amuse you highly. Also, the series The Elements of Scent will continue as well. In the meantime, take a look at the main Possets site where there is plenty of Eastern (Oriental) inspired perfume as well as those of the West. Http://www.possets.com

How To Burn Middle Eastern Incense (Bakoor or Frankincense) Part 1

Burning bakoor is an art. You have to have the right equipment and know a couple of tricks to do it right. Once you try this, however, you will experience the real idea of Eastern perfumery, the oldest form of scenting there is. No education of a perfumer is complete without burning the real thing and learning to appreciate the smooth, animalic, smokey, sexy scent of good bakoor. Watch this first video and learn how to get started!

Fabienne Christenson has visited Dubai and the perfume market in Dubai. She has collected bakhoor, burned it, had long conversations with citiznes of the United Arab Emirates about it, and has a few interesting asides. This blog will probably amuse you highly. Also, the series The Elements of Scent will continue as well. In the meantime, take a look at the main Possets site where there is plenty of Eastern (Oriental) inspired perfume as well as those of the West. Http://www.possets.com

Arabian/Middle Eastern Perfumery Bakhoor

bakhoorBakhoor is an incense made of wood chips and deeply infused with essential oils and fragrance oils. The wood chips are oude in the more expensive sorts of bakhoor, and a mixture of cedar or varietal hardwoods and some oude in the less expensive sorts of bakhoor. Yes, that is very expensive and so plan to pay a lot of money for first class bakhoor.

Most of the good bakhoor will come to you in a nice box and you get a lot of it. You only need to burn a very small amount of it because it smokes fabulously and the scent is extremely heavy. Proceed with caution and start with a small burn and then work up or else you will be setting off smoke detectors and have your neighbors hating you.

The scent of bakhoor is very obviously not Western. In the West, for all our love of foodies and florals, we are pretty bitter compared to the perfumes of the East which I could characterize as more emollient and sweet. Once you smell bakhoor, you will know what I mean.

Rose, patchouli, jasmine, and black musk are all common ingredients in a good bakhoor. The rose essential oils really vary a lot and a good Arabian perfumer will play with them like an accomplished cellist plays his instrument. I have smelled sweet rose, sweaty rose, lemony rose, and black rose bakhoor. Each of them give the middle note a good twist and keeps the fragrance interesting.

Next, what is the proper way to burn bakhoor, there is a trick or two to it.

Fabienne Christenson has visited Dubai and the perfume market in Dubai. She has collected bakhoor, burned it, had long conversations with Emirates about it, and has a few interesting asides about it. This blog will probably amuse you highly. Also, the series The Elements of Scent will continue as well. In the meantime, take a look at the main Possets site where there is plenty of Eastern (Oriental) inspired perfume as well as those of the West. Http://www.possets.com

Arabian/Middle Eastern Perfumery 101

hieroglyphicswordpressheader.jpgYou have heard, of course, that the word “perfume” means through smoke. That is pretty much the first thing anyone tells you about perfumery and they always expect that you are shocked, stunned, and in awe of that rare and esoteric piece of information. You have had that point hammered into you from the day you picked up your first book on aromatherapy and it’s in the first 3 paragraphs of every other book on scent you have ever read. Yea, yea, yea. Well, the first way anyone ever perfumed anything was by exposing it to smoking fragrant woods and resins. Today you could expect to see Arab gentlemen gathering in a majalis to talk and negotiate and the entire visit follows a time honored choreography of greeting, drinking coffee, who speaks and when and who does not, and the last act is that each of the participants have their clothing smoked with bakhoor, infused with the strong and hypnotic fragrances of the East. So, there is something in the idea of smoke infusion being the method of making fragrant.

But what is this bakhoor? How do Eastern perfumes differ from Western ones? Is there a common thread running through them? How do you use Bakhoor? Where do you get bakhoor? And is there liquid perfume which exhibits the same allure of incense? And, is there any accessory to make incensing your world easier?

Possets will explore these questions and more. So, keep your eye on this space because we are going to take a trip through the ancient souks of Dubai and the Emirates, heart of the perfuming business in Arabia!

Fabienne Christenson has visited Dubai and the perfume market in Dubai. She has collected bakhoor, burned it, had long conversations with Emirates about it, and has a few interesting asides about it. This blog will probably amuse you highly. Also, the series The Elements of Scent will continue as well. In the meantime, take a look at the main Possets site where there is plenty of Eastern (Oriental) inspired perfume as well as those of the West. Http://www.possets.com