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Jour de Fête 2014 – A reason to celebrate - April 14, 2014 New Fragrance Listing

Photo -Wikipedia - Jordan Almonds by Alex Kaspernicius, Feb. 2006

I grew up in the Italian section of working class downtown Toronto. Most of my childhood friends were Italian - we’d go to school together, do homework together and do chores together. Often we’d just hang at each other’s houses, which meant we got a glimpse into each other’s cultures. I have vivid memories of my friend Lina’s family’s late summer ritual of roasting and jarring red peppers, of hearing Italian music playing on the radio at my friend Gina’s house or of Anna’s grandmother, a widow who dressed entirely in black every day.

And, I remember sharing treats from home at recess at school with my friends. I’d bring molasses kisses or mints and they’d have pieces of panforte or amaretti cookies. And every once in a while, if I was lucky, someone brought a small muslin satchel of candied almonds to school. These were my favourites - I loved the hard pastel coloured sugar coating that cracked between my teeth on the way to the delicious almond.

 The first time I had one of these candied almonds I wanted more. Where did they come from? How could I get them? The answer: my Italian friends got them as party favours at weddings and baptisms. Candied almonds are traditionally handed out at Italian weddings because they signify the bitterness of life (the almond) covered in the sweetness of love (the sugar).They are often packaged in groups of five to symbolize happiness, health, longevity, wealth, and fertility.

It was a long time before I learned that the candied almonds, also called Jordan Almonds, are a kind of dragée - a bite-sized treat coated in a thin sugar layer, like M&M’s for example. Jordan Almonds originated in Rome where honey-covered almonds were eaten at celebrations. Once sugar became more readily available, the almonds were candied allowing them to be handed out as party favours.

Over time, the tradition of handing out candied almonds at weddings, baptisms and other festive events spread across Europe, they have become a symbol of celebration, holidays and feast days. And now they are celebrated in Jour de Fête 2014 eau de toilette by L’Artisan Parfumeurs.

I snapped up a bottle of this when it was first launched in 2003. Created by Olivia Giacobetti, it was one of my favourite spring scents. Yes, I said ‘was’ because Jour de Fête was discontinued a while ago. But my hard winter got a lift when I learned that L’Artisan would re-release Jour de Fête as a spring limited edition for 2014. I got my bottle last week and have kept it in sight since it entered the house.

Jour de Fête means ‘holiday’ and is an olfactory remembrance of those festive celebrations when the sweet smell of candies almonds filled the air. It opens softly with a sweet note of almond. A bitter/honey note from pink laurel bolsters the idea of bitter almonds, a nod to the origin of the candies. There’s orris here too, which gives it a lovely coolness. As it blooms, a note of wheat wafts forward. It smells of flour more than hay and balances the sweetness at the opening, setting the stage for a rich, gorgeous note of bourbon vanilla that shines all the way down to the drydown and is anchored by cedarwood, which gives it dryness and depth.

Really, Jour de Fête 2014 is built around just three notes - almond, wheat and vanilla – and breaking it down this way, Jour de Fête 2014 sounds as though it would smell sweet, cloying and jejune. And it might if it weren’t for Giacobetti’s deft hand at keeping the sweetness soft and evocative.

Jour de Fête 2014 also displays Giacobetti’s talent for creating sheer, delicate transparent fragrances. The fragrance is ethereal, not light, so that at times it feels as though it has disappeared, but it’s still there, a tender reminder of sweet memories and a harbinger of celebrations to come, that’s just right for spring and summer.

Sure, the name means holiday, but Jour de Fête 2014 isn’t a fragrance just for festive occasions. Each time I wear it is a celebration.

Jour de Fête 2014 is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.