Must Read: 500 Greatest Modern Perfumes

Basenotes is turning 15 this September! 
To celebrate, they're revealing, hour-by-hour, the "500 Greatest Modern Perfumes" that were launched from 2000 till now. This makes for a fascinating read that reveals what the choices of members of this wonderful global community of fragrance lovers (which I've been part of since 2003), which originally began mostly as a grooming and fragrance forum (AKA discussion board) for men. Yip, those were the days before blogs and vlogs, YouTube and Netflix ;-) 

The list's order is not exactly important. Rather, look at it as a compilation of what members had in their fragrance collections (AKA wardrobes), wish lists, which ones were viewed and reviewed the most, and which ones received the best star ranking. For each fragrance selected, there's also a review by one of the members. So it makes for a very fun read! 
You'll find all kinds of fragrances here, from drugstore gems and celebrity frags to posh designers releases, niche and hard to find European fragrances and of course - the creations of artisans like me who make everything by hand, bottle by bottle. So far I've seen 4 of my perfumes there: Palas Atena, Fête d'Hiver, Indigo and Kinmokusei, plus one that I've reviewed (Poivre Samarcande). You can also join the discussion on guessing what would be revealed next, on this thread

It's like a snapshot of what Basenoters have been wearing and loving for the past 15 years. The entire list will be fully rolled out on September 25th. 

Happy Mother's Day!

My mom was always an au-naturelle kinda gal who loved real flowers but not perfume. So she never wore scent, but preferred floral prints instead, and would always pick beautiful flowers to cheer me up and weave a beautiful crown of spring flowers for my birthday. She even put edible blossoms in my salad (nasturtium and wild garlic flowers), and would cut the radishes into flower-shapes to encourage me to eat them. 
Although she never worn perfume - she always loved aniseed tea and caraway-studded breads. So it comes as no surprise that to this day, I associate her with anise and and the enigmatic notes of violets and iris, which I find as soft and mysterious as herself and the midnight-blue crushed velvet she liked to wear. Kinda like what I imagined l'Heure Bleue when I read about it and before I smelled it.

It was only years later that she told me that indeed violets, anise, chocolate and vanilla were her favourite smells (before she lost her sense of smell almost permanently due to chronic colds...). And she also loved the lilacs she picked for me in her first visit to Vancouver (which sadly ends tomorrow...) Years ago,
I created Indigo perfume in her honour, and I've put anise, caraway, boronia, violet, carnation, orange blossom, frankincense and amber in it... Now I'm thinking that although I was probably on the right track - I should make her another perfume, and hopefully she could smell it occasionally - with cacao and vanilla absolutes, violets and anise.  
What perfume did your mom wear as you were growing up? Or what scents do you associate her with?

Leave a comment and enter a draw for a mini of Viola, my violet soliflore, a decant of Patricia Nicolai's Sacrebleu and a few other goodies... And - a quick reminder, that today is the last day of my Mother's Day free shipping online event.


Boronia, originally uploaded by Helen Boronia McHugh.

Boronia, originally uploaded by Helen Boronia McHugh.

Boronia is one of the rarest and most magical natural raw materials. It grows on the shores of Tasmania, in western Australia, and has a scent that is unusually complex and alluring: it is floral, sweet and peppery, reminiscent of yellow freesias; green and suave like violets (due to the high precentage of beta ionones, some alpha ionones and other carotenoids - which is not surprising given its orange-brown colour); and also reminiscent of raspberry, green tea and the sea shore and has a hint of hay and wood at the dryout phase.

Boronia notes are rarely found in mass-market perfumes because of its prohibitive cost; but also because it is susceptive to much adulteration, and the world production is extremely limited (Arctander mentiones under 1 metric tone per year but that was quite some time ago - I don't know if the production has gone up or down since than).

The only one perfume I could actually detect the boronia in is Diorissimo in parfum extrait (I bought a flacon some 8 years ago and it's pure heaven). Although Folavril lists it (along with mango) I can't say I've noticed it there.

Boronia serves an important role in the flavour industry more than in the fragrance, especially in berry flavours such as raspberry and strawberry and even peach - but most importantly cassis (black current). A little Boronia absolute goes a very long way in creating berry and fruit flavours, so it may be more popular in flavouring than in formulas for fine fragrance.

In my line I've used it in three perfumes - all very unusual as a result of the unique presence of this precious raw material:
Indigo, where it contributes to the mystique of cool vs. warm: violet, anise and orris against the warmth of amber, incense and spice.
l'Ecume des Jours, where it serves as the last catalyst to create a waterlily accord - the one that grew in Chloe's lungs and brought the doom on the entire cast of this surreal tale.
And Grin, where Boronia's eternal sunshine brings a stream of light into a forest clearing blooming with wild roses and smiling jasmines. I have to admit this one was largely inspired by Diorissiomo in the extrait.

Boronia is extremely rare and in fact the world supplies have reached bottom low this year already. So much so, that a supplier won't sell you more than 50gr until 2010, when the new harvest will be processed. The current price is $8,600 per kilo, the highest amount for any raw material I'm aware of other than agarwood essential oil. As a result, I had to increase the price of all of my perfumes containing Boronia - l'Ecume des Jours, Grin and Indigo.

Scent of a Mother

Mothers have a special scent. They smell like comfort, reassurance and tenderness. The scent of mothers and their babies help them bond and although scent is not the strongest sense of the mammals of our kind, they can recognize each other by their scent only a short while after the baby is born. If you ever smelled a baby before you will notice how fragrant they are - especially their head - a scent that is irresistible for a stranger, let alone a mother! Yet it is very delicate, and requires close contact and caring for the baby in order to be noticed and enjoyed. The mother’s body odour acts in a similar way on the baby and the young child. And lest we forget that mommies in our early life actuallyl mean, amongst other things… food!

And so, I wanted to dedicate this post to scents that remind me of my mother and also to wonder a bit about our differences when it comes to perfumes and the sense of smell…

My mother did not wear perfumes, ever. In fact, my mother has an hyposmia – which means that she can’t always smell. She tells me she can get a whiff, sometimes, of a nice flower when passing by, but for the most part her sense of smell is limited. As a child, I always helped her determine when food was spoiled. I could tell that it is just about to go bad when other members of the family still thought it was edible. And that was a very useful skill to have in a household with no refrigirator! (there was no electricity in the village where I grew up in, due to ideological reasons of the founders of the village, which I can still not quite understand).

But besides the practice of quality assurance in the kitchen, my mother has taught me and allowed me to practice many skills that ended up all leading me to do what I do now. She cultivated a passion for the medicinal properties of plants, including the most strangest smelling of all – such as ruh and yarrow. And so she taught me that each plant has a secret – something it can do to make us feel better and be happier people, even the ones that don't have very pretty flowers... Her favourite of all teas was aniseed tea, and to this day anything from the licorice family reminds me of my mother. Besides, she always gave me licorice root to chew on. It had the most incredible aroma and was intensely sweet even though there was no real ugar in it. My mother also baked whole wheat bread and the earthy scent of baking filled our little home with anticipation for the delight of munching on the warm crust...

My mother taught me how to sew and make my own clothes – and basically passed on to me the attitude that I can do most (if not all) things, myself. When I left for Vancouver, my mother gave me her special indigo coloured hooded-blouse which is made of the most slippery and soft velvet ever. She loves velvet, and just as soft as a velvet and a mother’s hand is, I created a perfume for her (which she can get a whiff of from time to time, and even asked for a refill before my last visit, which made me super-happy): Indigo. Indigo has plenty of aniseed, just like the syrupy thick tea my mother loved to drink, and also bread-like notes of caraway. It has an overall herbal and mysteriously cool spicy aroma which softens later into a violet heart, with boronia, jasmine, carnation and orange blossom and than fades into an incense and amber base, just like a warm blanket as the night deepens… It just feels like an indigo velvety night…

My mother danced with me when I was little, and sang to me every night. From her I got my love for music and art and flowers. And just as she came back to playing her music and living up her dreams after her children grew up a bit, I learned to insist on following my dreams too and never give up on what is most dear to me.
Her imagination guided me to follow my passions and listen to the language of flowers…

p.s. Tell me what scentual impression your mother left on you, or just stop by to say hello. Your comments will generate $1 per each commenter to be donated by myself to FINCA International. Your readership and comments are much appreciated!

p.s.s. Amongst all commenters today there will be a blind draw and two of you will win a bottle of Altruism!

p.s.s.s. I would like to take this opportunity to also draw your attention to SmellyBlog's super-fun contest - The Scented Ribbon Contest - send me a picture of what you think is the best use for the scent ribbons that are gradually replacing the blotter cards - and enter to win a perfume from my collection as well as a pair of handmade, super-comfy and sexy undergarments!
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