Thursday, 26 January 2012

Lenthéric Tweed: Am I Fabric-ating False Memories Of My Mother?

My mother would have been 92 this year. That is old, but by no means unusual these days: my aunt is 91 and my dad's cousin just turned 92, and celebrated by selling her life's work of paintings in one go (76 at the last count!).

But sadly, my mother died 13 years ago today, when she was 78. She had really hoped to make it to 80, but it was not to be. I miss her as keenly now as if it were yesterday. In a post in 2010 on Bonkers, I wrote about my mother's death and reflected back on her "scented past" - pretty threadbare basically - and not helped by a thoughtless Christmas gift of Rochas Byzance from me. I thought it worth linking back to it on this, her "anniversary", as Bonkers was even smaller back then, and some readers may have missed it. Apart from anything, it is notable for being a rare example of a Bonkers post written in a sombre and largely unfacetious tone.

Since I wrote it, I sought out a purse spray of Lenthéric Tweed, which is the perfume I think she wore of her own accord. I certainly remember seeing a chequered tin of the talcum powder, and had a notion that my mother also owned the perfume. I am not sure of the exact vintage of the one I managed to find on Ebay - it may not be quite old enough - but it certainly doesn't smell contemporary. It has that forbidding, rather manly, chypre quality to it of its Lenthéric stable mate, Style, or perhaps of Cabochard. I say "chypre" - Fragrantica describe the base as "oriental" - and looking at the notes it does seem to have a foot in both camps. I couldn't find a single "proper" review of Tweed, which in itself may be significant.

Top notes - bergamot, cinnamon and geranium
Middle notes - ylang-ylang, jasmine, lavender and orange flower
Basenotes - oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, benzoin, vanilla and vetiver

Hmm, the notes do look a bit austere to me. I was going to say "dog's breakfast", but that might sound disrespectful. I sprayed it on last night and again this morning, and it wasn't for me. I could imagine it being the signature scent of a very strict maths mistress with her hair scraped back into a bun, if she wore any perfume at all. Though that wasn't my mother at all - quite the opposite. I don't mean she couldn't count or anything - I am talking about the severity aspect. There again, Tweed does smell outdoorsy and a little masculine, and my mother loved the rugged scenery, rough fabrics and sludgy colours of the West of Ireland, which I think it does rather conjure up. And I am probably being unfair to it - Tweed is just of its time, and that style was simply too green / sharp / mossy for my taste.

So I don't really want to associate Tweed with my mum after all. Or maybe just the talcum powder, which I think was innocuous enough. And nor do I want to associate her with Rochas Byzance particularly. And when I cleared out her house I also found a bottle of Opium, which still smells good today. How did she come by that? I will never know.

So I guess I will just have to accept that I have this passionate perfume interest now, and I also have many happy memories of my mother. However, good - and genuine - perfume memories of her may forever elude me.

Photo of tweed fabric from harristweedshop.ocm, other photos my own


mals86 said...

Very lovely post. I'm sure it's a bit frustrating to not have scented memories of such an important person - my grandmother, who died last Christmas, never wore perfume at all, and while I have plenty of wonderful memories of her, there isn't any particular smell that brings her close to me in the fashion that No. 5 or Jovan Musk for Women brings my mother close.

Vanessa said...

Hi Mals86,

Thanks for your comment, and you are right - I do feel frustrated, also that I cannot pick out scents for her with the care and knowledge I would devote to the task if I had the chance now.

I know how attached you were to your grandmother, and am glad that you can at least savour genuine scented associations with your mum.

Vanessa said...

Oops, I could have "threaded" my reply. Having the facility is all still rather new and I am on my phone!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if your mother favoured a particular item of make-up or face cream or face powder or even had a favourite brand of soap, Vanessa. Many of the cosmetics and toiletries from the past had their own distinctive scents and finding one of the everyday things that she favoured could give you a scent link.

I sympathise with you over your loss on this anniversary, and I see that it would be a great comfort to have something scented that provided a connection to times past.

The scent from a pot of "Astral" or "Nivea" would bring to my mind a fair few women from previous generations, for example, since it was so popular and readily available. Something along those lines might be what you'd more readily associate with your much-missed mother.

Wishing you well,

Anna in Edinburgh

Olfactoria's Travels said...

Beautiful post, Vanessa!
I agree with Anna, my mother does not wear perfume either, but the scent of Nivea cream is deeply linked to her and my early childhood in my mind. Maybe there is something along those lines you can find as a scented memento.
Hugs, my friend!

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna,

Thanks for your kind wishes and the excellent suggestion of finding an alternative beauty product to associate with my mother. Pond's cold cream would be a definite contender, as she used it all the time I knew her, plus it was her weapon of choice to take off my stage make up after the various school productions I was involved with.

Beyond that might be options on Yardley's honeysuckle talc, Badedas bubble bath and that Bronnley's lemon soap shaped like a lemon, all of which we children would give her for Christmas, and which I think she used quite happily!

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

Am so glad it is not just me that had an unperfumed mother! I think I am going with Pond's cold cream though I think she may have had a pot of Nivea knocking around somewhere - most people did in those days. : - )

LDG said...

You never know Vanessa, perhaps one of your relatives might yet come up with a perfume anecdote! Lovely post.
I did have a perfumed mum (Chanel No. 5, Maderas de Oriente/ Myrujia) and I can well remember her own personal smell, which was even more yummy, but the smell I most think about most affectionately is sitting on her lap when I was little with the smell of coffee coming from her breath.
In the evening she used to heat up some milk and make herself some coffee as a treat. Coffee on warm breath and having a story read to you. I miss my mum more now, after 18 years, than ever before.

Tara said...

A very touching post, Vanessa. I hope the anniversary yesterday wasn't too hard for you. I'm glad you've thought of the Pond Cold Cream as a scented memory of your mother.

Oh how times have changed from the stark scents of our mothers' day to the sweet perfumes of today.

Vanessa said...


Thanks for dropping by to comment, and what a lovely childhood memory you have of your mother - coffee is a smell you can easily recreate for a comforting nostalgic link.

Sorry to hear that you have been motherless for all that time - I do always say to my (usually younger) friends to make the most of their relationship with their mothers while they are still around, because their passing leaves such a hole. It is not just the loss of them as a person, but with them go the memories of family life and oneself as a child or even baby, which is unique to the parental generation.

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

Yes, Pond's cream is perfect, and may be - on some subliminal level - why I am drawn to New Look 1947! That has a definite cold cream note for me.

Our mothers' and grandmothers' generation did have a very different style of scent, it is true. I do tend to moan about the crazy amount of choice we have today - in perfume as in other consumer goods - but I think I am more suited to contemporary rather than classic perfumes. I wouldn't have fancied wearing a girdle either!

Lovely to meet you at last - I really enjoyed our sniffing session, and thanks so much for the perfumes you gave me...full report to follow. ; - )

Bryan Ross said...

I enjoyed reading this. Quite an interesting family you have! I've yet to try it, but I've heard good things about Tweed. It strikes me as something very dry and green and mossy. I recall long before I ever tried Green Irish Tweed, I wondered if it smelled like actual Irish tweed, which has that dank, animal-hide smell. Sadly, it smells nothing like that, but perhaps Tweed comes a little closer. All those summers in Ireland have me going on scent memory trips - I'm going to track this one down.

Vanessa said...

Hi Bryan,

Thanks for dropping in and for your Tweed musings. I can confirm that this (somewhat) vintage Tweed is indeed dry, green, mossy and creamy, though by no stretch of the imagination does it smell of sodden heavy fabric, though I know the smell you mean. I also spent many holidays in Ireland and if this version of Tweed could be even slightly nostalgic for you, I would be very happy to send you a sample from this purse spray, which I only bought for my own reference, not to wear.

If you would like to try this one, PM me at

Undina said...

Pond's cream! My grandmother (who's 91) used to use it when I was a child. I still remember a jar and cream texture. I'm not sure I remember the scent though... I wonder if it's still produced and if yes, how different the scent is.

I really enjoy reading stories like that - how people keep living in memories - scented, visual or any other types - of those who loved them. Thank you for sharing, Vanessa.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Aha - your grandmother is the same age as the relatives I still have left of my parental generation! So that would explain the usage of Pond's... : - ) It does have a distinctive scent, with which its extreme coldness and creaminess is inextricably bound up, but I can see I am going to have to go and get myself some to test.

And I thought this post might be your kind of thing - you tell great stories yourself: the recent visit to that old house is still fresh in my mind!

Bryan Ross said...

Thanks for the offer - I actually jumped the gun and picked up a sample from ebay already - sorry I forgot I left this post and read yours too late! I'll let you know what I think of it when it arrives.

Vanessa said...

Not a problem, Brian. Let me know if you fancy testing another specimen later in case the ages vary (as far as you can tell), or the quality isn't up to snuff. Though I usually do okay on Ebay even with vintage scents.

Natalie said...

In a moment of perfume synchronicity, I saw an empty bottle of this while I was out thrifting yesterday. I instantly thought of you and grabbed the bottle to see if I could smell any remnants. I could, but I highly doubt they were indicative of the real smell. Still, it made me smile to think that without the internet, I would likely have passed that bottle by, and instead I have a memory associated with it, too.

Vanessa said...

Hi Natalie,

Oh, that is really nice that you thought of me in the thrift store - all those thousands of miles away too! I also have such "perfumista association moments" quite often - the other day with Burberry Beauty make up in Harrods (which I remembered Katie Puckrik reviewing), or last night as I was rummaging through my samples and found one of Lipstick Rose, Olfactoria's latest lemming!

Anonymous said...

My music teacher who was by the way blind and had a guide dog always used Tweed late fifties and it smelled gorgeous.

Vanessa said...

Oh, what a lovely memory of your teacher. I wish I could remember actually smelling Tweed on my mother - or any perfume indeed!

Cignet said...

Hi Vanessa, I've just become bonkers about Tweed after passing a woman in a department store and literally turning around and follwing her to find out what scent she was wearing (Tweed - which she is finding very hard to get these days). I came home and have been scouring the internet to discover its history and where to buy some! I found a wonderful historic blog here: and here's a nice description if you scroll down: I've discovered that the older vintage Tweeds may or may not hold their quality (and hence scent), and also that at least some of the newer very modern ones appear to be made in China and there is no proper list of ingredients in the ads. So the variation on quality of scent for all of the different Tweed perfumes and EDP's and EDT's out there may vary quite vastly by now. I was captivated by the lady I followed and spoke to. She loved her perfume and it suited her beautifully. I've just found and purchased some online (made in England) and I'm really hoping it's fresh and will suit me just as well. Best regards,

Vanessa said...

Hi Cignet,

Thanks for dropping by and how interesting to learn about all these different incarnations of Tweed! I have this vintage purse spray which I wouldn't say smells fresh as a daisy exactly, but not horrible either. Where are you based? I'd be glad to send you a sample of mine for comparative purposes, though sadly I could only do so if you were in the UK yourself. I hope your purchase is the good stuff. ;)

Cignet said...

Hi Vanessa, Thanks for your lovely reply. I'm in Australia, so am sorry I can't receive your sample - that would have been fun. I've actually purchased one quite aged vintage bottle also (none have arrived yet) so am quite intrigued about how they'll turn out. I find it so hard to wear fragrances (most are just too intensely sweet) and the tweed I smelled on that lovely lady was just such an amazing balance of fresh earthy aromas... wish me luck! :)