Hello everyone. It’s been a while, far longer than I had actually anticipated, and I thought I would check in with all of you and bring you up to date on things over the last six months. No, I haven’t fallen off a cliff or escaped to Fiji, but I have had a few things on my plate.
It’s been a rather difficult six months, dominated by a mix of emotions about so many things from real life to personal life, family issues, frustrations in blogging, frustrations about the current perfume environment, the Hairy German’s health, and so much more. Part of me feels awful for having been silent for so long, even when some of you wrote the kindest of notes or messages to me. The other part of me needed a complete break from all things blog and perfume-related in order to salvage what had become, by the end of last year, a badly damaged love of fragrance. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that a complex combination of factors had come close to ending my decades-long love affair with perfume, almost completely and entirely, as well as any interest in writing about them.
I had planned to give you an explanation of what exactly happened and had led to such a long break, but my post became, unsurprisingly for me, extremely long and detailed, and I ended up thinking, “Does it really matter?” After much thought, I concluded that I shouldn’t assume that the majority of people actually care about the reasons why I stepped away for so long, let alone have any desire to read a long explanation as to my feelings about the current niche perfume industry, the difficulty of my style of blogging, and all the rest of it. At the end of the day, all that really matters is the bottom line of whether you’re getting a review or not, and, since I’ve decided to come back (albeit in a slightly different fashion than before), I thought, “Just shut up and get on with it.”
Having said that, I need to make clear that things will be different going forward than they were before, because I need to ensure I never again come close to the situation in December where I hated both blogging and perfumery as a whole. When I published that last post, I turned my back on fragrance entirely. The person who’d gotten their first bottle of scent at the age of 5, and had worn something almost every day ever since, had now become someone who went weeks without any desire to have anything to do with scent and refused to wear a single drop. Both perfume and blogging had ceased to be about love, passion, or fun.
Time away helped, but another thing that, gradually, eventually, set me back on the path of enjoying scent was to return to my roots: the old style of perfumery, the classics with pre-IFRA, non-restricted, high-quality ingredients in abundance, or what we now call “vintage” fragrance. I continued with my unremitting (and by now utterly ridiculous) compulsion to collect every possible concentration of old Shalimar (in every possible bottle design and concentration from every possible decade), but other vintage scents also helped me to regain the love that I once knew. I’ve developed quite an extensive number of Mitsoukos in different concentrations and from across the decades; added even further to my vintage L’Heure Bleue collection; dipped my toes into Guerlain’s old Chamade; stocked up on more vintage bottles of Hermes’ 24 Faubourg, Montana‘s Parfum de Peau, and Yves St. Laurent’s Champagne/Yvresse; tried different years of vintage Egoiste (including vintage Egoiste Concentrée); returned to vintage Femme and Jolie Madame, went totally nutty on all sorts of Coty classics; discovered that Lauren Bacall‘s signature Lucien Lelong fragrance really was all kinds of fabulous; and realized for the umpteenth time just how much all these beautiful scents still had to offer — for men and women both.
So, if I’m to blog again, one compromise will be a greater focus on vintage, although I promise that the reviews will be interspersed with an examination of the latest new releases. I know that a good number of you have zero interest in vintage and only seek information on brand new scents to guide you in deciding what to spend your money on. Don’t worry, I will do my best to cover the more interesting or significant ones.
However, I will not be writing reviews with the same intense frequency as I did before. I simply don’t have it in me any more to write 3,000 to 5,000 words every two or three days on a clockwork schedule, and let’s face it, we all know that I’m utterly incapable of covering something in 250 words or three small paragraphs. (I don’t think even my emails to my friends are that short!) Plus, I have to confess that merely thinking about the massive deluge of new releases each year fills me with dread. Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World 2016 book apparently included more than 2,000 releases for 2016 alone. Let me repeat that one more time: 2,000+ releases in one year alone!!! Even if I tested a mere, microscopic fraction of that, I doubt the results would improve my attitude towards the current state of the fragrance industry. Most things I’ve tried have left me shaking my head or sent me fleeing back to vintage.
Thankfully, there are happy exceptions. For example, Papillon‘s upcoming Dryad, Naias by Sammarco, Bogue’s MEM, Neela Vermeire‘s Rahele, and Dusita‘s La Douceur de Siam (although those last two are technically fragrances that I tried last year and mentioned in my last post in December). I also enjoyed the first three hours of Frederic Malle‘s new Superstitious, one of the more interesting Malles to be released in years, even if the rest of the development wasn’t my cup of tea, and I have samples of new Roja Doves, Amouage, SHL 777, Salvador Dali, Kilian, Tauer‘s Attar, and a few other things either awaiting testing or heading my way. (I have high hopes for Roja Dove’s H-Black Tier and Britannia.) I plan to write about a number of these, so, yes, there will be reviews of the latest scents, but it will be a balance of new and vintage and it will be done on my own schedule, instead of my previous rigid standard (or personal expectation) of writing detailed reviews like clockwork every 2-3 days, week after week, like a masochistic automaton.
So, that’s the status of blog stuff. How have you been doing? I’ve thought about quite a few of you over the past few months: I hope you’ve been well; I hope some of you are cooking up a storm while others evaded any actual storms or dangers that may have impacted your area; I hope your various furry, princely beasties and princesses are in good health and making you do worshipful obeisance before their paws as they so rightly deserve; I hope you’ve had safe travels (particularly if you’ve flown United), good health, and successful business ventures; and I hope you’ve just had a damn good year thus far, period. Also, I know enough about some of you to suspect that 2017 has been rather stressful in terms of the larger world picture, so I hope you’ve found a few means of mental escape outside of mere perfumery.
A number of you have emailed or asked what I may have been up. I don’t often talk about myself or my life, but some of the notes were so sweet that I’ll share a little bit on the things that have kept me away or that have occupied my time. Those of you who are primarily interested in reviews or the fragrance side of things, please don’t feel obligated to read further. You can save yourself some time and stop reading here, unless you are a Serge Lutens fan whereby you should skip to the very end of this post where I briefly mention the reported/rumoured changes at Serge Lutens and several of the Lutens fragrances that are reportedly being discontinued, all topics which will be discussed in greater detail in my next post. For everyone else, the remainder of today’s piece will focus on purely personal stuff and photos, including lots and lots of photos of puppies at the end.
So, to those who have asked, no, I haven’t been out gallivanting around the world. Alas. Putting aside my perfume or blogging issues, the last 6 months haven’t been the easiest time for other reasons. There have been family and personal matters and, on top of all that, The Hairy German went through a truly terrible spell. As best as we can figure out, his auto-immune system just went nuts and attacked his body. He lost about 30% of his fur in December alone, and even more in subsequent months after that despite multiple vet visits. Changes to the dosages of his medications didn’t help, and I was distraught that he wasn’t going to be with me for long, especially as the life expectancy of GSDs now seems to average a mere 9-10 years. (Plus, I’ve never really gotten over losing my prior German prince to cancer when he was not much older than The Hairy German is now.)
Thankfully, I was referred to a phenomenal specialist who reviewed and scanned every inch of my Angel Face Honey Bunny’s poor, bedraggled body, peering at literally every inch of him, even the skin between the tuffs of hair in-between his toes, and in such a minutiae-obsessed, compulsive, lengthy, exhaustive, perfectionistic fashion that I knew I was with my fellow crazies. Joking aside, she was a life-send. She managed to get His Highness back on his feet (and back to some of his previous Hairiness) after many months by completely revamping his cocktail of meds and going a completely different route than what had been prescribed by everyone else in the previous years.
Thanks to her, my Teutonic Overlord was in fine spirits when he had his 8th birthday a little while ago — or maybe it was the big bowl of his favourite treat, watermelon, that he got. Either way, he was actually remarkably chirpy. (Until I harassed him by taking about a hundred photos to commemorate the event, one of which is to the left. After that he turned stony and gave me the GSD thousand-yard stare. So he was compensated (read: bribed) by some more watermelon, some celery, and a few oranges. Yes, yes, I know, I’m quite mad, but those are the things he loves.) Unfortunately, not long after his birthday, his back leg suddenly started to buckle under him in a way that suggested to his main doctor the possibility of Degenerative Myelopathy, an incurable spinal/nerve condition that is… not good news. The buckling has only been about 5 or 6 times thus far, but that’s more than enough to warrant further specialist testing to see if it’s DM, or merely a further, major, and serious degeneration from his hip dysplasia. Honestly, I can’t bear to think of it, so let’s change subjects and talk about lighter things.
Before The Mighty German became so ill, I had entertained hopes of escaping perfume by going to Iceland. That is hardly the hyperbolic extremity that it sounds. For more than a 18 months now, I’ve harassed my friends on Facebook with a positive deluge of (in my opinion) gorgeous, raw, stark, boldly vivid, practically surreal Icelandic landscapes, and I’ve been dying to visit there for ages, particularly during the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. Unfortunately, something always happens to make it fall through, and it did so this time as well. So, no, to answer a question someone jokingly posted on the blog’s Facebook page, I didn’t go to Fiji and fall off the face of some island. I was very touched that you thought of me (you know who you are), but it would have been Iceland, not Fiji, and, alas, I never made it.
On a related note, I’m soooooo completely obsessed by the beauty of Iceland that, during my struggles over the last few months, I sometimes contemplated dropping the subject of perfume entirely and writing about other things that I’m often much more interested in, like, for example, photography, beautiful places around the world, animals, nature, art, and, yes, Iceland as well. I know Iceland sounds like a strange obsession, and my friends tease me about it a lot, but, seriously, look at some of the images below which were taken by three extremely talented photographers whom I happened to stumble across, Garðar Ólafs Photography, Iurie Belegurschi Photography, and Tony Prower Photography (of IcelandAurora Photo Tours). They’re all brilliantly talented chaps, in my opinion, but their subject’s beauty speaks for itself and I’m not talking simply about the much-vaunted, admittedly stunning Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis, either! Take a look:
Aren’t they absolutely brilliant photos?! And isn’t Iceland stunning, almost out of this world, in some of the shots? One day, I’ll go there, hopefully on one of Tony Prower’s or Iurie Belegurschi’s many photography tours. Generally speaking, I’m the most city-slicker, non-outdoorsy sort of person you could possibly imagine (one day I’ll tell you the ludicrous story of the time when my friends made me hike up a small mountain under the Arctic Circle, and then engage in an axe-throwing competition at the top!), but something about Iceland and these photos actually makes me eager to huff and puff my way up an icy volcano or glacier in mounds of padded clothing that make me look like the Michelin Man.
When life and canine circumstances negated my escape to Iceland, I turned to other things. I re-read the superb biography, The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr., and the Reign of American Taste, which I think is a must-read for any oenophile, particularly those who are interested in descriptions of scent and notes or in changes in the wine industry over the decades. Then I re-read food critic Jay Rayner‘s hilarious book, The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner, where he eats at (and frequently rips to shreds) some of the most expensive restaurants in the world. I picked up a few other books as well but, in this very stressful political day and age, I wasn’t in the mood to immerse myself in hundreds of pages about the NSA (James Bamford) or the CIA (Robert Littell). Not even revisiting a favorite bit of modern history — Kim Philby, the Cambridge Five/Cambridge Spies, and the somewhat related life of the CIA’s legendary, crazed mole-hunter and counter-intelligence chief, James Jesus Angleton — did much to cheer me up or lighten the exhausting nature of current events, and Kim Philby or spy stuff normally sucks me right in with all its byzantine intrigue and craziness.
As longtime readers know, I’m a complete and utter tv junkie and find it to be the best source of escape during difficult times, so I went the other extreme from serious reading (yes, I’m all about extremes, in case you haven’t noticed by now) and I explored the Gilmore Girls to see what all the endless fuss and media hype is about. Good grief! Is a show supposed to make one spend one’s time mentally envisioning slowly stabbing the two main characters to death, episode by episode, nonstop over the course of 7 seasons??! I better change the subject. The Gilmore Girls raises my ire.
Lest you think I’m a TV snob, I’m not. A few months ago, I mourned the end of an utterly bonkers show, Grimm, and I recently subscribed to the newest online streaming service, Britbox, in order to quench my love of British detective shows, serial killer murder mysteries, and period dramas. (I haven’t managed to get into Coronation Street or the Eastenders, though.) Britbox is basically a set-up like Netflix, the British-centered Acorn, or the European/Scandinavian-focused MHZ Choice, so you can watch it streaming on a computer or mobile device, or use a Roku stick to watch it on your television. (The latter is what I do.) All of these services are available for a monthly fee with no ads. In the case of Britbox, it’s $6.99, includes ITV stuff as well as BBC shows, and has a number of very recent releases. For some things, episodes are available quite literally a few days after they air in the UK. Personally, I stick to the old stuff like Sharpe’s Rifle (Sean Bean at his very best and handsomest in an action/war/drama series set during the Napoleonic wars), re-watching Helen Mirren‘s Prime Suspect, Waking the Dead (cold cases solved by an elite team using modern forensics and technology), The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, and the like. But they’ve also got everything from every episode of Classic Dr. Who to Red Dwarf, all the old Sherlock Holmes series, a lot of Jane Austens, Dickens’ Bleak House, Cranford, soaps like Emmerdale, and never-before shown in the US stuff like Tutankhamun, a high-end miniseries about Howard Carter’s discovery of the Egyptian tomb, starring Sam O’Neill and Jeremy Irons’ son, Max Irons.
For people interested in the present, not the past, there is everything from the Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Parliament to cooking and gardening shows. I think Britbox is fabulous, but then British television is my comfort zone due to the years I spent there as a child. (If you are in the US and prefer purely European shows, like all the Nordic Noir, or French, Italian, Dutch, and German series, then I highly recommend MHZ which is $7.99 per month or its similar counterpart, the new Walter Presents, which is $6.99. The latter can also be accessed and subscribed to via Amazon Prime.)
Television, photography, and Icelandic landscapes weren’t my only source of escape from the latest bombings, horror stories in the news, bleeding Hairy Germans, or personal issues. I had a difficult health struggle of my own and, while I won’t get into the details, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to try minimize the impact by eating better (fewer French cheeses!), being healthier, fitter, and attempting to fix my life-long chronic insomnia. Well, that turned out to be a big fat joke! For example, I stumbled across a bag of Chia seeds, purportedly a source of enormous healthful benefits, in a corner of the pantry (why? how? who bought it?), but I took one look at photos of Chia smoothies or puddings on the internet and promptly ate more Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Soup Dumplings) which I’m absolutely crazy about.
In case you’re unfamiliar with them, soup dumplings are little balls of delights filled with spiced ground meat and a ton of savory broth. You put a whole one in your mouth and bite down to release a stream of delicious hot soup down your throat. I discovered that Costco actually sells a big box of them, frozen trays of six that are microwaveable within minutes. They were surprisingly tasty for something not made fresh in a restaurant. So, my attempts at a healthy regimen quickly devolved into an admittedly strange daily diet of soup dumplings, although I did try to supplement it with sushi, edamame, various salads, and fresh Mozzarella di Bufala (mozzarella made from water buffalo milk and with an extra creamy inside). My goal of hitting the gym often went right out the window along with the Chia seeds pretty early on, and I also gave up on attempts to fix my sleep disorder, but those soup dumplings continue to give me much joy. If you live in the US, check out Costco’s Bibigo brand ones or the even tastier ones at Trader Joe’s. The latter consist of a small box of 6 (as opposed to Bibigo’s big box of 6 individual trays of 6 for a total of 36 dumplings), but the broth and filling are considerably more flavourful.
My final bit of news involves, again, one of my greatest loves and passions: German Shepherds. I’ve talked several times in the past in my Grab Bag posts about my desire to get a puppy, hesitating only because of the possessiveness of My Teutonic Overlord, but I’ve finally taken the plunge and decided to do it! My conscience struggled quite a bit over the issue of getting a rescue but, in the end, the balance of factors tipped towards one particular breeder whom I’ve followed intently for the last few years: Alta-Tollhaus German Shepherds. Two months ago, I submitted an extraordinarily intensive and lengthy Prospective Owner Questionnaire to her (three whole pages of questions with multiple, multiple subsections!), and provided the requested references and referrals. Before you ask, no, none of that is typical for a breeder, not even top, high-end ones, but it is a sign of just how commitment and excellent she is. She doesn’t have many litters each year, intentionally focusing on the perfect health and behavioral matches, and she won’t sell any of them to anyone who doesn’t pass her stringent vetting. (The PDF questionnaire actually says as much, right at the top, albeit in highly diplomatic language.) The dogs matter, not the money. Even with all these hurdles, this small breeder has more than 750,000 followers on Facebook, and her dogs with their pure German, working/Schutzhund lines and with their gorgeous, less common red-and-black colouring (my favourite!) are reportedly superb in temperament. (When you have a dog as powerful as a GSD, and with the second strongest bite force and jaws in the canine world, breeding for a confident, stable temperament is as important as breeding for health.) The photos below are from Alta Tollhaus’ Facebook page or website, with all rights reserved to the photographers and owners:
I am pretty sure I have passed the vetting because, even prior to my filling out the papers, we had a long phone chat about my experience with The Mighty Germans. So she knows that I know the breed extremely well. (It might be more accurate to say that I am an utterly worshipful slave before their dainty feet.)
That might be why she’s already waived her requirement that prospective owners travel up to her farm in Michigan to be assessed in person (!) if they want a dog as a family pet (as opposed to a security, protection, therapy, or service dog), so, fingers crossed, I’m now on the wait list. One of the few litters this year is due in only a couple of days (!!), but I don’t know how long it will take for my name to go up the list and for the perfect puppy to arrive that will fit my particular personality and physical requests. It might be as long as a year but, whenever I do end up getting a baby German princeling, you can be certain you’ll hear all about it. (More than most of you will probably like, but, sorry, my Teutonic Overlords come before all else for me.)
I’ve digressed more than a little in bringing you up to speed on various small parts of my life, so, Seb, Don, and the others who wanted to know what I’ve been doing all these months, I bet you regret asking now, don’t you? 😉 I’m sorry, succinctness has never been my forte.
Before I wrap up, though, I just wanted to say one more time that I missed many of you, the chats, the discussions, and the debates. I hope you’ll accept my apologies for not answering all the emails, private messages, and blog comments, and that you’ll also understand why I may not have been able to do so at the time, but please know several of the kind, affectionate, or supportive notes/comments I received meant the world to me.
Enough about me. Next time, I’ll share my thoughts on the unofficial reports of major changes at Serge Lutens from possible discontinuations (Arabie, Sa Majeste La Rose, my beloved Fille en Aiguilles, A La Nuit, Serge Noire, Jeux de Peau, and Gris Clair, amongst several others) to bottle changes, size changes, price increases, and more. (One person is actually visiting the Palais Royale today to inquire as to the supposed 10 discontinuations.) News is still coming in, so I shall share their findings tomorrow or the day after when we have a better, clearer, and more conclusive picture of the situation. After that post, within the next week or so, I’ll have a detailed review for Papillon‘s upcoming Dryad, followed later by one for Bogue‘s new MEM. See you then!