Saturday Question: The Case Against Fragrance by Kate Grenville

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Greg Young from AusScents.

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(Ed: Taking an idea from Olfactoria’s Travels. Once a week there used to be a Question. Everyone would chime in with an answer, chat with other responders and it would be a generally fun events each week. Taking sides never meant taking offence and everyone kept it respectful and light.
Today we are joined by my mate Greg who has a book review attached to the Saturday Question)

Hi APJ,

As something of a perfume collector, I thought I owed it to myself to read this book and find out more about what is in those fragrances in the cupboard.

Kate Grenville has long known that she has an intolerance for fragrances that give her headaches. When it reached a point where she was almost totally incapacitated during a book tour, she decided to research the matter and wrote this book.

(E)-I-(2,6,6-Trimethyl-I-cyclohexa-I,3-dienyl)but-2-en-I-one
(The Name of the Rose)

Book Review: The Case Against Fragrance, by Kate Grenville

 

Book Depository

 

Grenville points out that, in modern society, fragrance is almost inescapable. It’s not just the perfumes that we wear. It’s also added to every imaginable household product from toilet paper to laundry liquid. Stores, restaurants and hotels spray fragrance in the air. It’s ubiquitous, and that’s a problem for people that are affected by it, like Grenville.

Any attempt to identify what is causing these problems founders on a few issues. First, trade secrets legislation means that the contents of “fragrance” ingredients don’t have to be revealed. Second, there are thousands of ingredients commonly used in fragrance, and only a subset of these have ever been tested for safety. Finally, nearly all the testing and certification is done by the fragrance industry itself, so conflict of interest issues apply. It’s not hard to see why a manufacturer might prefer to declare that a rose fragrance contains “parfum” rather than the chemical formula above.

Even what we do know is somewhat alarming. Grenville provides an extensive list of compounds known or suspected to be carcinogenic that are either used in fragrances or can form when fragrance ingredients interact with the air (as they unavoidably will). Chief among these is formaldehyde, although there are others.

Another concern is the prevalence of synthetic musk compounds that have proven to be almost indestructible. These compounds bioaccumulate so that they become more prevalent the higher up the food chain you go. That means that the very highest levels are seen in the most vulnerable: breastfeeding babies and foetuses in utero. These musk compounds can mimic the action of hormones such as oestrogen, creating over-supply which can lead to birth defects, genetic abnormalities and cancer.

Grenville is quick to point out that it is impossible to pin this on fragrance specifically, because there are so many other potential triggers for such conditions to emerge over a lifetime. Indeed “the case against fragrance” is largely a circumstantial one. Grenville shows that there are potentially harmful chemicals in fragrances, they have reached a point of ubiquity in the environment, and people are having adverse reactions. But there is no smoking gun; it is impossible to say for sure that there is causality here, and no scientific study would draw the kinds of conclusions that Grenville invites us to make here.

So what to do? The author’s solution is a bit simplistic. For one, she advocates embracing fragrance-free versions of products. That’s fine, except she does not apply anything like the same scrutiny to those alternatives. Just as decaffeinated coffee is not necessarily better for you due to the added chemicals, how does one know whether a fragrance-free detergent contains no harmful chemicals either?

More interesting is Grenville’s suggestion that fragrance-free workplaces may become the norm. ¬If a scientific institute such as the US Centres for Disease Control can adopt a policy that says “Fragrance is not appropriate for a professional work environment”, then it’s possible to imagine that this may one day become more widespread particularly if, as in the US, there are OH&S lawsuits decided in favour of people with fragrance intolerances.

Decades ago the idea of passive smoking was seen as cranky, now it is enshrined in law. We do not have the right to deprive others of a healthy and safe work environment; that is a very clear legal precedent. So maybe one day people who wear perfume will be like the smokers of today, skulking out the back giving themselves a shot of Shalimar before washing it off and heading back inside.

Food for thought? What do you think?
Greg x

Bitching, Blind Buying A Bottle, Three Books

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Val the Cookie Queen

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Midsummer Greeting APJ

Coming to you from the lake.

Bitching, Blind Buying A Bottle, Three Books

The Bitching

I have come across three similar posts over the last fortnight on various Facebook perfume groups going something like this: “I ordered a sample pack of 20 new frags – and none of them smelled good. What is wrong with my nose?” And yesterday on Twitter: “Something weird is going on. I´ve tested several perfumes in a row that smell like “dryer sheet” scent variations on my skin. I´m worried ….” Dearhearts it is not your nose, nor your skin, nor the weather, there is a lot of really crappy perfumes around. Lazy top notes over ISO – have- no- idea middle notes, on a bed of base note chemicals, cheap vetiver and worst of all straight up frankincense. Eau de Niché and I hate it. And it´s not just niché …… Is it possible that folks try and convince their noses that what they are sniffing is good and that they just don´t understand it? Or are they rubbish? Hmmmmm? Now don´t get huffy, it´s only my opinion – I say it´s them, not you.

A Blind Buy

I can´t say I broke my rule of no blind buys because I never made one. When I saw the Guerlain Black Perfecto by La Petite Robe Noire bottle, I had to have it. I ordered the small one. Simple as that. I have not tried any of the other nine LPRNs, no interest whatsoever. Monsieur Guerlain wrote very favourably about the Black Perfecto perfume so I hoped I might like the contents of the bottle too. Black tea, black cherry, black liquorice, a touch of almond, slightly smoky, and not the sweet bomb I expected. Dead chuffed, it´s really nice. Reckon it´ll be great in cold weather. And yes, it is worth having for the bottle alone.

Three Books

We are having a heatwave here which means I spend time at the lake and read more.

Book Depository

You might wanna be careful with Donald Ray Pollock´s Knockemstiff though, if you have trouble with dry dark humour, kids raised on abuse, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. Eat your heart out Deliverance. This is Knockemstiff, Ohio. Dr Fox, my ever-loving therapist told me to read it.

Book Depository

I had Donna Tartt´s The Secret History around for about three years and not picked it up. How was I to know it would turn out to be one of the best books I have ever read?

Book Depository

Just started Burnet´s His Bloody Project, set in the Scottish Highlands, 1869. Murder and violence. Recommended by Lady Jane Grey. I´m just off to the pool to read some more.

SOTD is Malle´s Eau de Magnolia.

If you have any bitching to do, blind buys to share, or indeed a book I should read, drop me a comment.

Sweltering Bussis
CQ

Bookworm Portia: Fragrance & Novels

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Post by Portia

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Hello Bookworms,

Lately I have been back reading books. For a while life was just too hectic and my head felt too full of whirling stuff to be able to fully give myself to a book. Thankfully life has calmed down to a mere roller coaster ride and I’m finding some space to get my read on. Books have always had a special place in my life. Mum & Dad used to read us to sleep every night and we were always told that when the world got too tough losing yourself in a book was an excellent cure. So, many of my books have been read and reread since my childhood and every time it’s like seeing old friends. Here though are a few of the fragrant books I’ve been reading this last few weeks.

Bookworm Portia: Fragrance & Novels

The Scent Trail Celia Lyttelton BookDepositoryBookDepository

The Scent Trail: Celia Lyttelton

The Scent Trail: How One Woman’s Quest for the Perfect Perfume Took Her Around the World. I enjoyed this book immensely and Celia Lyttelton must have spent a small fortune going on this grand journey around the world, meeting amazing people who grow, harvest and distil the fragrant ingredients that she had made into a bespoke scent. If you ever wanted to know more about where the natural ingredients are sourced then this book will give you enormous insight. Every now and then I had to go back and reread a page because I was lost in jealousy at her great good fortune.

Jitterbug Perfume Tom Robbins BookDepositoryBookDepository

Jitterbug Perfume: Tom Robbins

I have had this damn book for years and would read the first chapter or two and put it down in bafflement. This year I was determined to read all the way to the very last page, and I did. Tom Robbins leads us a merry dance and the story of finding immortality through scent is spellbinding, once you push through the first few chapters. I find that after reading it I look back on it with more admiration that I had while doing the reading. Jitterbug perfume needs to be reread and savoured next time.

The Perfume Garden Kate Lord Brown BookDepositoryBookDepository

The Perfume Garden: Kate Lord Brown

To be honest my initial thought was that I would hate this novel. Turns out I couldn’t put the damn thing down. A story told across generations with simultaneous narratives from all the protagonists, happening over a 70 year period. Basically a couple of love stories and a family torn apart by war. Mainly set in Valencia, Spain and there is a lot of fragrant talk because two of the main characters are perfumers. Really enjoyable, if slightly predictable read.

The Perfume collector Kathleen Tessaro BookDepositoryBookDepository

The Perfume Collector: Kathleen Tessaro

An estate, a perfume store, an inheritance, lost love, drama, found love. It’s all here in a very entertaining book. There is something about the writers style that irked me a few times but the story rolls along inventively enough and I ended up invested emotionally in the characters, though they are mostly only mildly likeable.

Two honourable mentions:
The Perfumed Sleeve by Laura Joh Rowland: A fabulously salacious murder mystery set in old Japan with a few fragrant references. Who knew old Japan was such a sexual hotbed of lies and deceit?
The Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal: Indian widow and family nearly lose their family shop but the dictatorial oldest brother comes with his business partner to help. Few fragrant references but a cracking good read. My second reading, it was even better this time.

What are you reading?
Portia xxx

Susan Irvine: Of Spies and Scatter Cushions

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Post by Anne-Marie

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There is so much online information about perfume these days that books, especially slightly older ones like these two by Susan Irvine, may seem redundant. But there is still much pleasure to be had from holding a well-produced book in your hands, and from being in the presence of a knowledgeable writer who can convey a love of her subject.

Susan Irvine: Book Reviews

9781854104458-us

Susan Irvine: Perfume: The Creation and Allure of Classic Fragrances

Susan Irvine is a journalist and writer who specialised in perfume and fashion for many years. Her book Perfume: The Creation and Allure of Classic Fragrances is a broad sweep across the history of perfume and its production, presentation and marketing. I confess I have only marginal interest in the chemistry of scent, and the production of raw materials. Irvine covers these subjects admirably, but her chapters on how perfume is promoted fascinated me the most.

‘Selling perfume’, she writes, ‘is about selling something indefinable, invisible and covetable: glamour.’ So the philosophy, the brief, the bottle design, the name, the advertising and the launch party are all about creating desire for a slice of this glamour.

Irvine herself is apparently a veteran of many a launch party. ‘Concorde is the journalists’ equivalent of a school bus for transatlantic events’, she writes, laconically. ‘If it’s Monday, it must be the Paris Opéra, filled with 8,000 Casablanca lilies for the re-launch of Yves Saint Laurent’s Y.’ On Thursday its Giorgio Armani’s Giò in Manhattan … and so on. For the haps and mishaps of the launch of Dior’s Dune in Biarritz, you will have to read the book!

419Z50X6QBL._SX369_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Susan Irvine: The Perfume Guide

By contrast, The Perfume Guide is a guide to individual (mostly feminine) perfumes, arranged in families: floral, fruity, herbaceous, chypre, and oriental. It’s always fun to ‘look up’ one’s favourites (and ‘scrubbers’) in books like this to see what the author makes of them. Funny also to note discontinued gems, like All About Eve by Joop!, and obscurities like Smell This by James Berard (what? who?).

By 2000, when this book came out, niche perfume was starting to make a difference, so works by L’Artisan, Diptyque, Annick Goutal and Serge Lutens are mentioned. But of course the great classics are there too: Chanel No 5, Guerlain Shalimar, Lanvin Arpège, Patou Joy. ‘It’s impossible to imagine Chanel No 19 on a badly dressed woman’, Irvine proclaims, making me bite my lip and shuffle my feet in scuffed shoes.

If you have ever wondered where that great comment about Rive Gauche came from – ‘what KGB agents would have worn to seduce James Bond’ – it is Irvine’s. Dana Tabu is ‘for women who wear their knickers on their heads’. But my favourite is this remark on Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, one of the best-selling perfumes of all time:
‘For women who are not afraid of scatter cushions’.

Both books are out of print, but are still available from online second-hand book sellers.
Susan Irvine, Perfume: the creation and allure of classic fragrances (Haldane Mason Ltd, 1995).
Susan Irvine: The Perfume Guide (Haldane Mason, 2000).

 

Anne-Marie’s Perfume & Mothers

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Post by Anne-Marie

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No, it’s not Mother’s Day just yet, don’t panic!
I was mucking about on the perfume blogs the other day and came across a very striking post by March on Perfume Posse dating right back to 2006. Not a review, but a meditation, you might say, on her mother’s perfume, Lanvin’s My Sin.

Perfume & Mothers

It reminded me of a few other posts of this nature that I have read over the years. A few bloggers – mostly women – have written very movingly about the perfumes worn by their mothers, and the emotions that a whiff of perfume can elicit. These posts make for very interesting reading and I thought it might be good to bring them together here.

Boy and his mother laughing in the kitchen

The mothers have left their daughters with very strong perfume memories. Usually the women were indeed very strong women, and a girl’s first lessons in femininity are often learned at the dressing table through the wonder of watching her mother apply perfume. If you are familiar with the latest Chanel No 5 ad, featuring Gisele Bündchen, you will remember how beautifully this moment is evoked.
In different ways the bloggers’ daughters have tried to ‘read’ their mothers’ lives through their perfumes. They conjure up the mother as young woman, younger perhaps than her daughter is at the time of writing. They try to imagine their mothers as people separate from their children, as career women perhaps, or lovers to their husbands, or trying to juggle all their many roles.

Gisele CHANEL No 5 Ŧhe ₵oincidental Ðandy FlickrFlickr

What were my parents like before we children came along? Can I gain any insight into them just as people, not as parents? Does perfume open a different window on to my mother’s life and personality than the person I normally remember? If so, where do I belong in that picture?

Anyway, here are the posts.
March on Perfume Posse on Lanvin My Sin.

Beth on Perfume Smellin’ Things on Guerlain Shalimar.

Shelia on the Alembicated Genie on a variety of classic perfumes, especially VC&A’s First.

Michelle on Glass Petal Smoke on Dior Miss Dior.

Gaia, the Non-Blonde, on the original Chloe.

Barbara on Yesterday’s Perfume on Revlon Charlie. (Her mother also wore Rochas Femme, Lancome Magie Noir, Scherrer No 1, and Ungaro Diva.)

Dimitri_Torterat Dad_and_son_staring_at_the_French_oriflamme_(French_Bastille_Day_2009) WikiMediaWikiMedia

After you’ve had a browse, come back and share your own memories, if you would like to. And if know of similar posts about fathers, I’d love to know. These seem to be much rarer. And please share your own memories of what your Dad wore.

Anne-Marie

Your Good Books for Traveling?

Hey there crew,

We are in South Korea and I reckon having the time of our lives.

Righto!
So I am running INCREDIBLY late with stuff for this holiday and my mind has turned to mush. Instead of writing a post I thought I could ask you all for your input:

Question_Mark_CloudPhoto Stolen WikiMedia

What Book Recommendations Can You Give Me For Bus, Train, Plane or any Public Transport? Do you choose technical stuff so you can learn on the trip, self help or growth books, a thriller or a novel, maybe an autobiography? Please give me an insight into your travel reading past and future? Is it fragrance, travel, silliness or maybe you like those crossword books?

Sleeping On The Plane Ian McKenzie FlickrPhoto Stolen Flickr

My answer:
I love to read while I’m traveling. On this trip I have packed 3 books:

The Golem and the Djinni Helene Wecker BookDepositoryBookDepository AUS$17 Delivered Worldwide

The Golem & The Djinni by Helene Wecker: A coming of age story about freedom I think.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R Covey BookDepositoryBookDepository AUS$17 Delivered Worldwide

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey: I like to see where I can improve my output always

Raising Steam Terry Pratchett BookDepositoryBookDepository AUS$24 Delivered Worldwide

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett: Crazy DiscWorld nonsense. Freaking love it.

So, what do you read when you travel?

Portia xx

Sheila Eggenberger Interview

Hello fellow Perfume Junkies,

Many of you will be familiar with Sheila Eggenberger of TheAlembicatedGenie and her as yet unpublished novel Quantum Demonology that has become a seriously cult-style hit in the fragrance community. Some of you will be going, “Um, What?” and it is to you that I offer this rare insight into a blogger, author and general all round great girl of the scentbloggosphere. Sheila has been a mate and champion in the short time that APJ has been running and I am proud to count her among my yet to be met net friends. Her never say die attitude is a beacon we should all learn to follow.

Photo Stolen fanpop

In conjunction with this interview if you drop in at PerfumePosse today I have reviewed the Olympic Orchids Devilscent Project fragrances Lil#1 & Dev #2 so down the bottom there is a jump you can easily hit to trot across and read there too.

Sheila Eggenberger

Give us a brief history, who was young you, important you defining moments or early fragrant memories that may have herded you towards the ever moving now?

I grew up with a perfume-mad mother, so perfume was everywhere as I grew up, and living in South Florida – a very fragrant spot! – helped, too. Defining perfumista moment: (It ruined me for life!) A coming-of-age trip to Paris for a 14th birthday, when Maman took me to the Guerlain flagship store and told me to buy what I loved. I bought Jicky, since she didn’t wear it and I loved it. Today, I can’t believe I would choose something so …audacious! The next day, I bought (the original) Miss Dior. I was a great-smelling teenager.

What spurred you onto creating the Alembicated Genie?

It was my book, Quantum Demonology, believe it or not. By the time I neared the ending, I had had it with testosterone bombs and rock’n’roll. I wanted an outlet for my girlie sensibilities, so I created Scent Less Sensibilities which became The Alembicated Genie. I never in my wildest dreams expected to become a perfume writer. But life has been exciting ever since!

Do you have a favourite independent perfumer?

Too many to count! Andy Tauer, Vero Kern. Mandy Aftel, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Neil Morris, Ellen Covey, Kedra Hart, Maria McElroy of aroma M and Alexis Karl, Amanda Feeley – and a new discovery who has blown my mind – Juan M. Perez of Exotic Island Perfumes. A definite one to watch – and sniff!

What do you see as the most important trend in perfume currently?

Perfume as an art form in its own right. The trend towards indie perfumers pushing the boundaries of defining perfumes is redefining the industry as well as our own perceptions of it. That more and more people are turning to the artistry and dedication of indie perfumers. And I think it’s interesting that more and more, different art forms are coalescing into projects – books and movies to go with perfumes, for instance. And a far sadder trend – world-renowned brands killing the very heritage that made them what they are.

Do you have a signature scent?  If so, what is it and how did you find it? If not, why do you think that is?

In terms of perfume, I’m an utterly faithless slut. I’m fully capable of being virtuous to my favorite brands, but the idea of picking just one perfume gives me hives – and a massive case of indecision. I have complete perfume AHDH. Where would I start, when perfume to me is a case of “Who do I want to be today – tonight – this instant?” But the closest would be Chanel no. 19 eau de parfum, which I’ve worn for over 30 years with no end in sight. It was perfect for a punk and for the Goth that punk became. It’s perfect for this walking midlife crisis and writer wanna-be, even today.

Tell us about Quantum Demonology?

It began with a discography and a discussion in a Copenhagen record store. When I came across a certain inspiring image, it evolved into a short story I wrote one night out of boredom as a joke and posted on my soapbox blog. I never thought I would be asked to continue it, but I was. So I did. Nine months to the day (!), I had a finished first-draft novel. An ode to …music, madness, passion, redemption and perdition, among other things.

How did that translate into the Devilscent Project

I blame Andy Tauer. And Ellen Covey. Perfume was always woven into the storyline. Frankincense and labdanum – two of my favorite notes – are mentioned many times, as are several other perfumes. When I reviewed Andy Tauer’s Incense Extreme as a “Would this be the Devil’s Scent?”, Ellen commented that I nearly dared her to make …the Devil’s Scent and that was how it started. Since then, it’s grown to ten bloggers, eight US indie perfumers, and no less than 19 incarnations of mind-blowing, category-defying perfume, including an incense and a deviously delicious massage bar. 

If there’s anyone reading from the world of Literature Publishing, where can they taste your Quantum Demonology?

They can find some explanations as well as samples of the prologue and the first three chapters in draft form at the Quantum Demonology blog: http://quantumdemonology.wordpress.com, many more inspirations on both the book and the Devilscent Project at the Quantum Demonology fan page on Facebook: http://facebook.com/quantumdemon, and follow the Devilscent Project on Twitter through the hashtag #devilscent.

Photo Stolen Olympic Orchids

Olympic Orchids Devilscent Project fragrances are running a terrific sample program 5 x 3ml Devilscents for $30 delivered to the world.
Read Sheila Eggenberger at TheAlembicatedGenie
Go check PerfumePosse for my reviews of the Olympic Orchid Devilscent Project, go on!

I hope you enjoyed our Sheila Eggenberger interview and also hope to see you tomorrow but till then, love, love, love, from us at APJ.
Portia xx