Monday, November 24, 2014

Kicking Up A Stink - The Definitive Guide To The Best Oud Perfumes

Is there anything left to say about oud? I suspect most of you reading this would shout out a resounding No, and a few months ago, I would've agreed with you. But today, I'm not sure. Since it started to gain prominence in about 2008, the ingredient has become so ubiquitous that it is now a perfumery cliche, a lazy way for brands to foist the notion of 'the exotic' onto potential customers. Walk into a department store and you're likely to see those three, innocuous letters at several unlikely fragrance counters, including Gucci, Lancôme and Versace, none of which is synonymous with Arabian aesthetics. Oud - or at least, the idea of oud - is everywhere. It has entered the common vocabulary of scentusiasts. There is almost no space left for it to invade. So, at this important juncture in the development of the ingredient's relationship with modern perfumery, I'd suggest that the time is ripe for an exercise in looking back: a compilation of the best oud perfumes on the market today, as chosen by yours truly.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Persolaise Review: Concrete Flower from Atelier PMP (Mark Buxton; 2014)

As far as I'm concerned, any brand which releases only one new perfume per year is worthy of serious attention. In an environment where even niche outfits seem unable to let a few months go by without accosting all-too-confused consumers with yet another creation, perhaps the best way to get people to sit up and listen is by realising that less is more. In 2013, Atelier PMP gave us Dreckig Bleiben, a well-made, if somewhat forgettable, woody-balsamic scent, put together by Mark Buxton. With commendable patience, they've waited twelve months before unveiling the follow-up: Concrete Flower (also composed by Buxton).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Persolaise's Summer 2014 Perfumes In ParfumPlus

An edited version of my post on perfumes for summer 2014 has appeared in the latest issue of ParfumPlus magazine. If you'd like to read it, please click on this link, where you'll also find an Arabic translation.


Monday, November 17, 2014

'My Most Important Ally' - Chandler Burr On Dior

As someone who owns very well-thumbed copies of The Perfect Scent and The Emperor Of Scent, I was excited to discover that Chandler Burr’s distinctive prose style has once again been employed in the service of perfume writing. This time, his subject is the house that gave us Poison, Eau Sauvage and Fahrenheit. The result of a direct commission from the brand, Dior: The Perfumes consists of brief essays on several key releases - starting, of course, with 1947’s Miss Dior - as well as thoughts on the couturier himself and his impact on the arts scene.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Persolaise Review: Cuir D'Ange from Hermès (Jean-Claude Ellena; 2014)

In David Almond's book, Skellig, a young boy encounters a strange man in the ramshackle shed at his new house. He's filthy, his clothes are in tatters and he reeks of neglect. He's a complete mess. However, as the story progresses, he thrives under the boy's care and he eventually reveals his true form: a fantastical, angel-like being, capable of filling people's lives with little miracles of hope. His embodiment of the sacred and the profane was one of the first things that came to my mind when I wore Jean-Claude Ellena's twelfth Hermessence creation, Cuir D'Ange.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Legendary Chantal Roos On The Launch Of Her New Brand, Dear Rose

From left to right: Alexandra and Chantal Roos,
co-founders of Dear Rose
"Oh, Bloody Rose! Bloody Rose has no rose in it. It's a hypnotic white flower. It's the naughty girl. When she arrives, you don't see her. She has a drydown of patchouli. She leaves a trace. Be careful with Bloody Rose. She's kind of a bitch. But the perfumer didn't understand. The vision of the perfumer was not the vision we had. Ours was extremely chic and elegant. His vision was obvious: big breasts, big everything. One day I said, 'Stop! Go over it all again. Yours is too vulgar, too ordinary. She's not dangerous.'"
To read the rest of my interview with Chantal Roos - the woman whose work gave us YSL's Opium, Kouros, Paris and Jazz, as well as Issey Miyake's L'Eau D'Issey and Gaultier's Classique and Le Male - please click on this link to Basenotes. Amongst other subjects, Roos discusses her new brand, Dear Rose, as well as the problem with the perfume industry today and the reason why Yves Saint Laurent was worried about releasing Kouros...


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Change Is Here - Estée Lauder Buys Frederic Malle

It's been only a few days since the announcement was made that Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle is to be bought by Estée Lauder, but already the finger-waggers are crawling out of the woodwork, saying they saw this coming. Perhaps they did. However, I don't have a particularly business-conscious head on my shoulders, so I don't mind admitting that the news took me by surprise. What's more interesting is that it seems to have struck a powerful chord amongst scentusiasts online. I'd love to put together a lengthy, detailed response to some of the comments that are being made, but I'm afraid I'm currently in the throes of time-consuming Day Job duties, so instead, I'll direct your attention to Elena Vosnaki's post on the subject on her Perfume Shrine blog (click here to read it). I'll disable comments on this post so as to encourage the discussion to remain focussed in one place. Do take the time to check out what Elena's readers have said on the matter and please add your own voice to the debate. Several juicy issues have already been raised, including the role of bloggers in providing brands with publicity and the (rather grim) future of 'niche'.

I'll leave you with a few thoughts. Nothing remains static, least of all in the world of perfume. Companies will continue to be formed, dissolved, taken over, bought, broken up or sold. Unless we have some sort of privileged insight into Frederic Malle's life, we can't pass judgement on the professional and personal circumstances which persuaded him to steer his company along this particular route. Perhaps he'd always intended to sell to one of the Big Boys. Who knows? Unlike several commentators, I don't feel personally aggrieved by his decision. I don't subscribe to the view that his company - or any other company, for that matter - owes me allegiance purely because I happen to be more interested in fragrances than the average shopper. I understand that fiscal imperatives often have to make way for aesthetic ambitions. I also don't agree that 'Lauder' is necessarily a synonym for 'evil'. There are plenty of mainstream brands out there which continue to treat us to praiseworthy releases; by the same token, there are plenty of niche brands which are taking us for a ride and expecting us to part with our cash for sub-standard products. In other words, just because Malle will now be a Lauder company doesn't automatically mean his perfumes will deteriorate.

That said, I am worried about the future. The PR reps for both brands have assured everyone that everything is going to remain exactly as it is. But they've got to say that. They're hardly going to put out a press release claiming that everyone had better stock up on Portrait Of A Lady right now because there's every possibility that its formula is going to be mucked up. Indeed, it's almost certain that no formulae are going to be mucked up straight away. But what about later? That's my main concern. Yes, things will stay the same for now, but what about 12, 24 and 36 months down the line? If anyone can maintain creative integrity whilst working for a massive corporation, perhaps it's Malle, but I wonder if even his will is strong enough to do so. Time will reveal all. Until it does... I confess I'm very, very tempted to add a few Malles to my Christmas list.


PS If you'd like to be reminded of what Malle said about why he decided to create his own brand in the first place, please read my interview with him from January.

PPS In light of Malle's recent announcement that his latest perfume is an oud - a Dubai exclusive called The Night - you might like to read his thoughts on making oud fragrances by clicking here.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Christmas 2014 Perfume Recommendations - French Kisses, Vintage Handbags & A Great Big Nothing

I can't start thinking about Christmas until we've seen the back of All Saints' Day; any sign of Yuletide shenanigans before then makes my stomach turn. But we are now well and truly into November, which means it's time to start turning our attention to the business of filling the bottle-shaped holes in the lives of our dearest scentusiasts. So pour yourself another glass of mulled wine and feast your eyes on Persolaise's very own perfume recommendations for Christmas 2014.

For a special someone of the female persuasion: Oeillet Bengale from Aedes De Venustas - Just when you thought we'd never have another decent carnation perfume, Rodrigo Flores-Roux comes bearing a bunch of elegant red and white blooms, decorated with spices, incense and a sprinkling of desert sand.

For a special someone of the male persuasion: Bentley For Men Absolute from Bentley - Michel Almairac's re-make of his own, much-missed Gucci Pour Homme is the archetypal male scent: peppery, ambery and laced with enough incense to give the Vatican an inferiority complex. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Psychology Of Airport Shopping - Niche Perfumery Comes To Abu Dhabi Duty Free

She reaches into the plastic tray, takes out her handbag and slings it over her shoulder. She hoists her bright orange case off the conveyor belt and places it on the ground. She extends the handle, takes a breath and then walks away from the queue, towards the gleaming logos. Louis Vuitton. Gucci. Hermès. As the lights from the displays fall upon her features, her scowl softens, relaxes, and slowly turns into a smile. Her eyes widen. She raises herself up to the tips of her toes, very briefly. She lets out a six-year-old's chuckle. And then, quietly, her smile now a grin, she whispers a triumphant "Yes!" before dashing into the first shop.

People-watching at airports is always fascinating, but I found the incident above particularly interesting, as it took place soon after my visit to the new perfume counter at Abu Dhabi Airport, a visit which prompted various musings on the psychology of airport shopping.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Persolaise At London's Science Museum - Book Tickets Now!

On Friday 21st November, I'll be giving a talk at the Dana Centre at London's Science Museum on the subject of writing about perfume and smell. The event will part of a series entitled The Hidden Senses, which comes under the banner of a project called Being Human, put together by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. If you're free on that day, it would be great if you could come along and support what sounds like a very interesting venture. In addition to my talk, the event will feature contributions from Ophelia Deroy, who'll be talking about the plating of foods, and John Silas, who'll explore the topic of smell and memory.

Attendance is free, but tickets have to be booked in advance, as the venue has limited capacity. To book tickets, please click on this link to Eventbrite. You should find a listing for two sets of events: one taking place between 3:30 and 5:00; the other taking place between 5:30 and 7:00. I'll be taking part in the second slot (5:30-7:00).

You may also be interested in this Eventbrite listing (click here). It's for a lecture being given by Professor Charles Spence, author of The Perfect Meal: The Multisensory Science Of Food And Dining. Spence will deliver the lecture twice, so you're free to choose which of the two times suits you best.

Finally, for general information about these events and their purpose, please click here.

I do hope to see some of you on the 21st!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

30th Anniversary Of London's Les Senteurs - Interview with Betty Hawksley, Claire Hawksley & James Craven

It's almost 100% safe to assume that if you're the sort of person who has made the effort to come to this site and read these words, then you've heard of Les Senteurs. It may be based in London, but thanks to its mail-order service, the shop's reputation reaches far beyond the British Isles, to the extent that it can probably justify calling itself an institution. Its shelves have displayed the wares of some of the world's finest brands. Its walls have echoed the voices of countless prominent industry figures. And its sales assistants have earned public praise and recognition for their expertise and helpfulness. That's why its 30th birthday cannot pass unmentioned on this blog.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Persolaise Review: L'Homme Ideal from Guerlain (Thierry Wasser; 2014)

It's probably fair to say that Guerlain is in a tricky position. On the one hand, it has to satisfy its owners by churning out a steady stream of till-friendly products. But on the other, it's under pressure to uphold its reputation as one of the most revered perfume houses, an obligation which, these days, doesn't often square up with creating the sorts of scents that attract Sephora-worthy commercial success. Thierry Wasser, the brand's current in-house perfumer, has been extremely candid when describing the tensions which exist between his impulses as a scent-maker and the motivations of the brand's marketeers. For instance, in a recent interview (please click here to read it) he questioned the wisdom behind the Shalimar Parfum Initial concept and he went so far as to state that the policy of releasing endless flankers of popular scents is nothing less than a "sickness".

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bring On The Bling - The Salon De Parfums At Harrods

I'm reliably informed that mere hours before its official opening, a few sections of Harrods' Salon De Parfums didn't even have a floor yet. Well, someone must have worked their socks off right through the night, because the newly-created space at the very top of the store looked nothing short of stunning when I popped in for a wander a few days after it commenced trading. In the UK, nowhere does bling quite like Harrods, so even though the Salon's marble floors and crystal chandeliers would probably seem penny-pinchingly restrained in Dubai, here in London, they scream extravagance.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Persolaise Review: Rose Flash from Tauer Perfumes (Andy Tauer; 2014)

Roses are always an easy sell for me - the result of a youth spent in the Middle East? - but when they're touched by the hand of Andy Tauer, they're especially irresistible. For some reason, the Swiss perfumer seems to know exactly how to bottle the multi-layered magic of the flower. Maybe he's just lucky in the lab. Maybe he doesn't shy away from using high-quality natural rose oils by the gallon. Or maybe he just adores the flowers and can't help his passion from flowing into his bottles. Who knows? The fact is that he's given us some of the niche world's most impassioned rose compositions, from the haunting Une Rose Chyprée, to the masterfully meditative Incense Rosé and the facetious Une Rose Vermeille.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Salon De Parfums Opens At Harrods

In 2010, the site of the year's most exciting perfumery event in the UK - the Perfume Diaries exhibition - was Harrods. And now, in 2014, it looks like the Green Palace is going to steal the show again: the Salon De Parfums has finally opened its doors on the sixth floor. Those of you who read my post about it in July will be aware that the newly-designed space was conceived to house exclusive scents from the likes of Dior, Chanel, Guerlain and several other brands. It is also the home of the revamped Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie; indeed, Roja Parfums is officially being labelled the Salon's 'anchor brand'. I hope to see the new enclosure for myself within the next few days and I will, of course, report back on my findings. For now, I invite you to feast your eyes on the Instagram images of the Salon which have already started circulating online. They certainly seem to suggest that the design people have done a stunning job!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Persolaise Review: L'Incendiaire from Serge Lutens (Christopher Sheldrake; 2014)

I don't often pass comment on the price of new perfume releases, but sometimes it's hard not to. The latest scent from Serge Lutens - the first in what is being presented as a new range of exclusive, gold-label bottles - is selling at £380 for 50 ml. That's right: £380. Or $600 for my American readers. Before anyone accuses me of being unjustifiably hysterical about this, yes, I realise that L'Incendiaire is an extrait, which means that, per millilitre, it falls within the same bracket as extraits from Guerlain, Chanel or Dior. And sure, I'm aware that we live in a world where prices rise rather than fall: most brands, both niche and mainstream, hike up their prices in small increments on a regular basis, and many of them now offer products which are well above the £200 margin. But even so, £380 for a single bottle of scent (which cannot be purchased in a smaller, less expensive form and comes from a company that isn't known for pushing exclusivity to silly extremes) is pretty shocking. That's why I'm inclined to give free rein to my hysteria and view L'Incendiaire as something of a watershed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Very Full Day - Olivier Cresp on Angel, Penhaligon's And The Manic Pace Of Perfumery

If Olivier Cresp is fed up with talking about Angel, he doesn't show it. Since the fragrance was launched in 1992, he's probably spent a frightening proportion of his life entertaining journalists and fans with stories of its creation. But when he discusses the perfume at London's Sanderson Hotel, during an event to mark the start of Georgia May Jagger's reign as the official Face Of Angel (see below), he is full of enthusiasm, acting as though he's never before been asked to explain how one of the most successful fragrances of all time came into existence.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Persolaise Review: La Panthère extrait from Cartier (Mathilde Laurent; 2014)

Cartier's menagerie is growing. Less than a year since the eau de parfum of La Panthère was released, the brand has just revealed the extrait version - in an equally gorgeous bottle - and this time, they haven't held back on the zoo vibe. If the edp placed most of its emphasis on the floral, the parfum pounces on the feline. Mathilde Laurent has retained the sticky, honeyed gardenia core, but she's framed it with an unmistakably cat-like muskiness and finished it off with a purring sandalwood. The result may be less enigmatic and less impressionistic than the edp, but it's ballsier, more compelling and much more unsettling. The ferns have parted and the panther stands in the clearing, no longer wishing to conceal itself. Those susceptible to its charms are in for a thrilling encounter. And if they shout loud enough about the experience, mainstream perfumery may become sufficiently brave to move away from endless fruity florals.

[Review based on a sample of extrait provided by Cartier in 2014; for my review of the eau de parfum, please click here.]



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