Wearing perfume is enjoyable for me, but is fraught with problems nowadays because of other people’s allergies or lung issues. I have to be very careful when I decide to wear it out. I don’t put it on in crowded situations like meetings, but I do enjoy wearing a pretty scent out to dinner with DH. Sometimes I’ll put some on in the evening just to enjoy around the house, as he likes the fragrances I wear. My go-to for spring/summer for several years has been Boucheron, a French fragrance that has been around since 1988. I loved Yves St Laurent’s ‘Y’ for fall, but it was discontinued, and I have yet to find something else that says Autumn the way it did for me. Winter is just right for the heavier spicy Opium. If you are interested in fragrances, the exhibit at the NC Arboretum Baker Center called Making Scents is a fun thing to see. This is the final weekend for it, you can see it through Labor Day before it closes.
You’ll learn a bit of history, and find out what a ‘nose’ does. (Extra credit if you remember that term from The Christmas List!)
The perfumer’s tools include bottles of essences which are precisely blended. There are so many essences in a single fragrance! I was surprised to find this out some time ago, as I thought there were only three or four essences in a fragrance. My summer cologne, Boucheron, has ylang-ylang, tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine, civet, basil, wood notes, vanilla, ambergris, and oak moss among other notes. Readers familiar with my love of white flowers will note that most of the flowers in that fragrance are white, LOL!! The ‘Y’ has a main top note of bergamot, also a white flower with a spicy component.
Interactive exhibits make the experience fun. There were little puffers that you could use to sniff, then decide what you thought.
I didn’t realize that the ‘notes’ of a fragrance stay around for different lengths of time. Top notes evaporate quickly, middle notes last for a few hours, while base notes can stick around for days. If you are curious as to what notes may be in a fragrance, there is a great website called Fragrantica.com (no affiliation) that has just about everything. I’ve used it to try to find something comparable to the ‘Y’ that I cannot get anymore.
Perfumes are also categorized by class, the main notes of a fragrance. I know from the fragrance website that I tend to gravitate toward the Oriental and Chypre classes for my fragrances. I’ve looked up many of the colognes I have worn over the years, and those two classes keep coming up. We have been looking for an after shave and cologne for DH now for some time. The British Sterling he used to wear has had a change in its formula and it isn’t as nice as it used to be. He likes the leather and woodsy classes, but most of what is out there for men now is so citrusy, not my taste or his.
On this interactive exhibit, you can slide the bars to blend your own fragrance from three options per note (top, middle and base). The machine will take your three choices, blend them, then let you know what your choices resemble in real perfume.
It gives you a scented card so you can sniff your choices as a blend.
The highlight of the exhibit is the artistry of the glass bottles.
The craftsmanship of these lovely pieces was extraordinary. Pieces from the early 1800s are displayed next to modern ones. The gorgeous blue bottle on the top shelf is by an unknown maker from the 1800s.
The bottle marked #188 is by Faberge called Princess Grace of Monaco from 1998 The large one on the right with the interesting top is a modern one by Sarah Jessica Parker called Covet from 2007.
Gorgeous clear glass works of art aren’t they! Unfortunately, I didn’t get the key for these. The candle art glass piece was really pretty. There were bottles from as early as the first century all the way through to today.
Interesting part of history, from the 1200s up to the 1700s, people used to believe that disease was spread by inhaling bad air, and that perfume could prevent one from catching the plague. Physicians would wear masks with aromatics to to protect themselves.
In the 1500s to the 1700s, people lived in stench and squalor due to the filth in the streets. Germs had not been discovered, and sanitation didn’t exist. In Paris, one of the foulest cities in Europe, the noble class would carry small apple shaped containers full of aromatics to smell and ward off disease. The French word for apple is pomme, and is the root of the word pommader. Pommaders today often contain potpourri.
The interesting shape glass container with the Frenchman is a Czechoslovakian piece from 1935. Just behind and to the right is a Japanese perfume by artist Zsolnay from 1878. The tall clear bottle with the black stopper is Stuben glass, as is the pink one behind it.
The large triangular piece is Liz Claiborne from 1986. The little one #164 is Quelque Fleurs from 1912. On the right, #165 is Bill Blass. I met him in 1978, when I worked in a cosmetics department at a big department store. He was charming, gracious to us mere mortals and a perfect gentleman. I wore his perfume for many years, and loved its fresh clean scent.
The photo of the key to this case didn’t come out, I wish I could tell you about the beautiful piece with the large blue stone, the interesting piece behind it, and the antiques below. I do recognize the birds on top of the bottle on the upper right as Lalique by French glass artist René Lalique for Coty from the early 1900s, another design and fragrance that survives to today.
The Statue of Liberty bottle was made by Estee Lauder in 2000. In front of it, a Viennese piece from the 1800s. My favorite winter fragrance, Opium, is on the right with several examples from the line.
The green bottle #25 is Roger and Gallet from 1923. Next to it, the iconic Shalimar by Guerlain from 1924, but it is still made and sold in this same bottle today.
Before we left the Arboretum, we had to stop by the Quilt Garden to see how it was arranged this year.
Pink and red flowers form arrows pointing to the center of every group of four. Small white flowers frame the corners. Pretty isn’t it? The Arboretum does a different design each year. Last time I showed this, they had butterflies.
I’d like to hear from readers who enjoy wearing fragrances, and what your favorite fragrance is. Do you change your perfume with the seasons?
Read more about Perfumes and Perfume bottle art with these books on Amazon.
The Alchemy of Scent
The Essence of Perfume
The Wonderful World of Perfume Bottles
Baccarat: The Perfume Bottles – A Collector’s Guide
Art of Perfume: Discovering and Collecting Perfume Bottles
Collecting Lalique: Perfume Bottles & Glass
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