Kafkaesque on Elle.com

Right before Christmas, I was interviewed for an article on Elle.com about fragrances worn by royalty and modern creations which include similar olfactory bouquets or notes. The journalist, Jesse Breeden, was also interested in the most precious ingredients in perfumery and their modern usage. She was rather thrilled to hear that some of the original fragrances worn by various kings, queens, and tsars were actually available on the modern market to the average person.

The main theme of the piece was how the ingredients in your daily scent had once been so rare and expensive that they’d been reserved for royalty. I explained about the use of synthetics these days, and how several things that were once extremely common in perfumery are no longer used in the same way or form due to resource scarcity, cost, animal cruelty concerns, or IFRA/EU regulations. For example, Mysore sandalwood, ambergris, or animal musks.

The piece was published recently on Elle’s website, and is called “How to Smell Like a Queen: Your Favorite Scent May Have Royal Roots.” I thought you might enjoy reading it, though not everything in the piece comes from me. (I certainly never said any of the rare or once royal scents could be found in your local Sephora!) Anyway, it was great fun, and I feel really honoured and humbled to have been asked in the first place.

46 thoughts on “Kafkaesque on Elle.com

  1. Congratulations. I enjoyed reading your description of iris absolute. May this article garner you even more readers!

    • It was definitely very cool to be ask, and somewhat disorienting to see my name on the actual page! Definitely very awesome. Thank you, my dearest Jackie. (BTW, I hope you’ve been staying warm and not freezing to death up there!)

  2. Very cool indeed. 🙂 Speaking of cool, it’s so cold here that I haven’t set foot outside since yesterday. 🙁

    • Poor thing, I don’t blame you. That said, it sounds like a good time for some snuggle scents, a hot toddy, and curling up with your partner. Think of it as an excuse for an extra-romantic evening, instead of you being stuck inside and not setting foot outdoors. LOL. 🙂

        • You should just be happy that I didn’t tell you to get a German Shepherd as the solution to all your problems, because I was quite close to doing so. Lol. My (extra) Hairy German is the ultimate thermal blanket! Of course, having one *would* require you to step foot outside, but let’s not think about the minor details. 😉

          • Rofl….that
            made us both laugh. With a litterbox and Pomeranian I wouldn’t need
            to step
            outside. :)-

  3. I liked your article and I’m so glad that they interviewed you Kafka. The article made me want to sniff one of those perfumes right now and walk around with a tiara. That is probably the closest I’ll get to being royalty…hey, wait, that wouldn’t be bad at all!

    • Thank you, Sandy. I really do hope that you get to sniff some of the perfumes some day. If you love iris scents, you should definitely seek out the Serge Lutens because it is truly a legendary scent — though not a very easy one, in my opinion! But if you really want to smell like royalty, there are a few things from Oriza or the Santa Maria Novella cologne that you may want to consider. Isn’t it amazingly cool that we can wear what they once did, almost in their exact same form?! 🙂

      • I sampled Iris Silver Mist when I was first learning and did not care for it, but it was also my first visit to the Paris salon and I was very intimidated and ignorant. I will have to try it again. I think the Oriza Violette da Czar bottle is beautiful and I appreciate a good violet so I will put that on my sample list too. Thank you Kafka!

  4. Yey! A good day indeed for all the Iso E supercrappy haters out there! Lol! Hopefully the term will go viral amongst the perfume community as a result! ;-P
    Honestly K you deserve this and a lot more……you’re incredibly talented yet extremely humble and deserve all the accolades!

    • HAHA at the ISO E Supercrappy! That was all you originally, Sultan Pasha, ALL YOU! If I could do a constant footnote to bring up your name with a Trademark symbol next to it, you’d get the credit nonstop for it in each review where it’s mentioned!

      As for your high praise, thank you, cheri, but I only played a very tiny, contributing part in this piece with background information. Ms. Breeden did a lovely job all by herself. xoxox

  5. Elle is very lucky to have found you. I am off to find the article now and save it to show my family. We are all lucky to have found your blog.

  6. Yay! I’m so happy for you! How fabulous is that? I knew it was only a matter of time before something like this would happen. Your writing is wonderful and I’m glad people are taking notice of it.

    • Thank you, sweetie. It is only a small thing, nothing big in the scheme of things, but it was really nice to be asked and such a huge compliment! I hesitated to share the article, truth be told, because it really is a small thing and I only contributed to parts of it. Ms. Breeden did a nice job by herself!

  7. Oh, thank you for sharing the link to your fascinating article and congratulations! This is so cool, cool like an iris! (So, you can do succinct, too, haha).

    I am glad that in our times fragrance now can be enjoyed by proletarians like me and I had to smile about your “not-so-PETA-approved essential” part.

    • Heh, the PETA stuff was her comment, and I thought it was a very funny one, too. I merely supplied the background information, links to several reviews, historical information, and general explanations about ingredients in perfumery. A lot of the conclusions or how she phrased things was all her own. I didn’t even know she was going to use Violettes du Czar in an iris section, since I had meant it as an illustration of something else entirely, but I guess she found that part of the review useful for her iris discussion.

      So you see, I had only a small contributing role in things. 🙂

  8. That’s great Kafka, congratulations! 🙂
    I’m planning my next visit to the Lutens boutique in Paris and I’m debating which one of his creation I should try this time. Do you think Iris silver mist could be worth trying (before, well, nearly all of his exclusives. Among the fragrances exclusive to the boutique, I’ve only tried Cuir mauresque and Musc Koublaï Khan)?

    • You live in France, I think, so you know what I would try to do? Write to the Lutens website or call the boutique in Paris and see if you can get their wax samples that they often used to send out free to people to asked. There is a set of the Lutens fragrances but in wax form. I’ve heard mixed comments about just how identical their scent is to the real fragrance in liquid form, but if you can get to try the Bell Jar Exclusives in wax form first, it will give you a good idea of what fragrance(s) you will want to focus on when you’re in the actual store itself.

      If you can’t get the samples, then I would save skin space to try a few of the Bell Jars when you visit Les Palais Royales. Don’t settle for just one scent. Sniff all of them on the strips, then choose one or two to put on your skin. Personally, I would ask for samples of those scents to take home with you for proper testing because, even if this isn’t your first time to the boutique, I think you may well be completely overwhelmed by all the odors. (Maybe you can also bring a few empty echantillon vials with you in case they’re totally out of official manufacturer’s samples of any of the Bell Jars that you particularly like.)

      I guess my point is not to settle for trying a few Bell Jars but as many as possible. If you had to choose a few to focus on, though, I would choose for you first and foremost De Profundis!!!!!!!! Iris Silver Mist is an extremely difficult scent, imo, even for some of those who actually love iris fragrances. On the other hand, it is rather otherworldly and alien, a masterpiece, and well worth trying at least once in your life. La Myrrhe is another legend that is worth sniffing when you’re there. Fourreau Noir isn’t famous but it is the Bell Jar that I fell for when I went there, and became my first one. De Profundis is the second, though I was also tempted by Un Voix Noire and Bois et Fruit. (I later bought Bois et Fruits in non-bell jar form, as it is occasionally available that way over here on some discount sites, even if Bois et Fruits is now only a Paris Bell Jar exclusive.)

      Anyway, I hope that helps, but I also hope I didn’t overwhelm you with names and information. LOL. 🙂

      • Nay, it’s great info Kafka. 🙂
        I actually live in Paris, so I’d rather try on my skin. Except this year I have quite a hectic schedule, and I never, ever seem to find the time to pay a simple visit to the Lutens boutique. It frustrates me to no end. So I want to make sure it’s worthwhile
        I did sniff different fragrances on paper during my last visit, but it soon became quite overwhelming indeed. Hence my asking.
        I didn’t know they had wax samples! Well, I’ll ask for some if they don’t have regular samples.
        Heehee! I’ll probably try De Profundis then. I really, really love myrrh so I’m glad to learn that La Myrrhe is famous! I noticed it but hesitated to try it on, in case I’d be disappointed by the treatment of this beloved ingredient. Fourreau Noir does sound right up my alley too.
        I’m a bit weary of trying another Bois-something. Un Bois Vanille was meh, but more importantly, I really begrudge the way the cedar was handled in Féminité du Bois. I mean, it was an interesting perfume, but the cedar itself was disappointed (somewhat waxy), and it’s one of my FAVOURITE woods in the world. Hmpf.
        I’ll tell you about my choices when I get to go to the Palais royal again. 🙂

        • I think you should read my review of La Myrrhe before you try it, and I don’t say that to get you to read my review but so you can prepare yourself because La Myrrhe is a… complicated… unexpected… scent. LOL It’s not an incense one, as one might think from the use of myrrh or from the name. It has a massive aldehydic opening, like tidal waves of soapy lather! Bois et Fruits is really fruity and oriental, but with much more bois than Feminité du Bois had on me. Still, I don’t think it will be cedre enough for you! I really don’t.

          Fourreau Noir….. *sigh* so lovely. Such a gorgeous scent. Only Oncle Serge could make a lavender scent that would bring a lavender-phobe to their knees. The very first time I loved a lavender fragrance. And De Profundis is utterly elegant, haunting, evocative, and moving. I cannot wait to hear what you think of all the various different ones, Anne, and if any of them capture your interest. My God, you live in Paris and don’t go to The Holy Mothership constantly??! GET THEE TO LES PALAIS ROYALE IMMEDIATELY!!! 😉 :)~

  9. I like the fact that Elle interviewed you and used some of your knowledge to explain things to their audience. What I do not like at all is how dumbed down the whole article sounds. I, with my non-native English, could have written that so I’m sad that this is something that passes nowadays as a journalism. On the other hand, at least they linked to your blog so probably those 2% who might be interested in more creative writing and deeper analysis will find there way here.
    Nevertheless – congratulations! I agree with previous commenters, Elle is lucky they found you.

    • It’s funny that you thought the article sounded dumbed down, because I was actually surprised they included so many details, especially about technical things like synthetics. Honestly, my expectations are SO low for mainstream publications dealing with fragrance issues and with public awareness as a whole when it comes to certain ingredients. I’m often surprised if people even mention oud in a glossy magazine, though it’s become much more frequent over the last year than it used to be. But things like synthetics or more technical aspects? They’re rarely covered.

      In general, I think glossy fashion magazines don’t want to lose their readers and stick to nutshell, simplistic summaries. Terrible as this is to say, I think journalism as a WHOLE writes for the lowest common denominator, choosing to avoid complexity, details, and/or nuance. (I have such shamefully low expectations of fashion magazines. LOL!) So, coming from that perspective, I was really pleasantly surprised by what they chose to cover in the piece. For once, someone tried to explain to the average Joe or Susan that there is a little more to their scent than they may think, and that includes non-natural ingredients as well.

      Anyway, I totally understand your perspective, Undina! As for the link to my blog, I’ve had 4 hits in total from that piece, so I really don’t think Elle’s readership is interested in deeper analysis at all or has any real desire to learn about perfumery as a whole. (Rather proves my point about the average reader of such magazines.) Thank you for the kind words and for the congratulations, though, my dear.

  10. That’s so incredibly cool – a tremendous congratulations to you! I’m glad your talents were picked up by a more mainstream publication, that’s recognition you richly deserve!

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