Friday, December 19, 2014

Persolaise Review: Tobacco Rose, Anubis & Angélique from Papillon (Liz Moores; 2014)

When I interviewed Papillon's founder, Liz Moores*, I told her that, putting aside the issue of personal taste, the most striking feature of her debut scents is that they are extremely well-rounded and finished in comparison with other niche creations. Several non-mainstream fragrances display a cheerful roughness around their edges - indeed, in some cases, this is their most endearing feature - but Moores' work conveys a maturity and craftsmanship entirely at odds with her low levels of experience and her claims about a lack of formal perfumery training. I guess she's just talented, pure and simple. When faced with an array of scented materials, her head and her hands know exactly what to do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Persolaise Review: Mitsouko from Guerlain (Jacques Guerlain; 1919 [and Thierry Wasser; 2013/14])

I seem to have written about the current formulation of Mitsouko in all my usual haunts except, ironically, on this very blog. So I've decided to take a few minutes to remedy the oversight, mainly because the end of the year is almost upon us and I want to strike this off my To Do list before we hit 2015. I realise that the blogosphere has already gilded Thierry Wasser's re-working of Jacques Guerlain's 1919 master-chypre with layer upon layer of praise - and rightly so - but I'm eager to add my own voice to the compliments, just in case there's anybody out there who's in two minds about whether to get their hands on a sample of the stuff.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Perfume Mini-Reviews From Twitter - July to September 2014 [part 2]

Here's the second part of my compilation of Twitter mini-reviews published between July and September 2014.

Cologne from Etat Libre D'Orange (Alexandra Kosinski; 2014)*
Pays homage to Mugler's Cologne. Citruses processed through a near-apocalyptic Steam Punk factory. Cogs and sprockets clatter and clang. Calcium fizzes. The female robot from Metropolis would wear this. Somehow, very 'right' for ELDO.

L'Etrog Acqua from Arquiste (Rodrigo Flores-Roux; 2014)*
Photo-real, finely-grated, tart lime zest segues into dewy floral and well-judged musk drydown. Lovely, happy work.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Persolaise Review: Dior Homme Parfum from Christian Dior (François Demachy; 2014)

I'd love to know what the thinking is behind Dior's creation of 'parfum' versions of their classic masculines. Yes, obviously, on one level, it's related to the beep of cash registers - they wouldn't be doing it if it weren't profitable - but I'd like to believe that a few non-commercial reasons are involved too. Perhaps it points towards the arrival of heavier, more opulent compositions for men. Or maybe it's further evidence of François Demachy trying to stamp his own identity onto the brand: he daren't mess around too much with the bestsellers, but if he makes up an alternative identity for them, then he can allow his creative urges to run a little bit freer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

'It's Still A Challenge' - Arquiste's Carlos Huber At Bloom Perfumery

Carlos Huber at Bloom
image: Bloom

Although I remain a massive fan of the brand, I find myself unable to give an unqualified thumbs up to Arquiste's new The Architects Club (composed by Yann Vasnier). Several critics have been won over by what they've read as its gorgeous presentation of vanilla, but I haven't been affected in quite the same way. I love the scent's opening - an expertly-balanced, boozy, peppery evocation of the interior of Claridge's Fumoir - but as it develops, its complexity appears to diminish: to my nose, the vanillic drydown isn't as multi-layered and compelling as it could have been. Perhaps that's the perfume's inadvertent statement on the profession referred to by its name. Architects need to have an artistic temperament, but they must also ensure that their work is grounded in prosaic, physical realities. Maybe that's why the scent feels like it's holding back and keeping its more free-spirited impulses in check. It's a compelling explanation, but it doesn't make it any easier to accept that, as an olfactory representation of the Fumoir, the scent doesn't come across as sufficiently debonair. So when I met up with Arquiste's founder, Carlos Huber, at London's Bloom perfumery in October, I began our conversation by asking him why the vanilla in The Architects Club isn't more engrossing and more elaborate.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Perfume Mini-Reviews From Twitter - July to September 2014 [part 1]

Here's another round-up of my mini-reviews from Twitter, this time spanning the period July to September 2014.

Royal Extract from Guerlain (Thierry Wasser (& Mathilde Laurent?); 2014)**
This new Harrods exclusive is actually the much-missed Attrape-Coeur by Mathilde Laurent. Attrape-Coeur was, of course, also known as Guet-Apens and was also released as an EDT called Vol De Nuit Evasion. Royal Extract is perhaps a touch more powdery and a bit less boozy than Attrape-Coeur, but it's essentially the same scent. And now, hold your breath for the crunch: a mere £285 for 125 ml. And it's a limited edition.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Persolaise Review: Patchouli Absolu from Tom Ford (2014)

Watch out, the 70s have just walked into the room. Or have they? The first thing that attacks you from Tom Ford's latest Private Blend is, appropriately enough, a bell-bottom-wearing, disco-ball-swinging, heavily-permed patchouli. It's brown, muddy and unashamedly unwashed. But then it changes. It ditches the dirt, boogies into the nearest wormhole and hurtles towards the 21st century. When it arrives, it seems to be radiating light from every single facet that had been caked with earth mere seconds ago. Suddenly, it's clean and gleaming. Indeed, this is Patchouli Absolu's most remarkable feature: it manages to retain the distinct, recognisable personality of its star material, but it also strips it of all the allegedly negative associations with the past.

Tauer Perfumes Advent 2014 Give-Away Winner

Thank you so much for all your contributions to yesterday's Tauer Perfumes draw. Honestly, I enjoyed reading every single one and I wish I had the time to reply to them. It was fascinating to see where all your perfume tastes lie and to learn about your very personal experiences with the world of scent. Sadly, there can be only one winner and the gods at have decided that it is:


Congratulations! Please can you send your postal details to persolaise at gmail dot com, together with your three choices from the list of perfumes available in the Explorer Set format (see this link for more info).

Commiserations to everyone else, but don't forget that Andy will be holding a different draw every day until the 24th. Please check out the advent calendar on his blog for more details.

My thanks once again to Tauer Perfumes for making the draw possible.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Advent 2014 - Win An Explorer Set From Tauer Perfumes

There are 27 days to go until the end of the year, and I don't know about you, but Madame Persolaise and I are definitely not ready to bid farewell to 2014. We haven't written our Christmas cards, we haven't planned our festive menus and we certainly haven't bought all our gifts yet. I feel a hectic three weeks coming on... during which I'll also have to start thinking about my Best Perfumes Of The Year list... but let's not go there today...

Whilst I'm trying to organise myself, you can take part in today's special give-away, which forms part of Andy Tauer's series of Advent draws. Once again, Andy has kindly asked me to take part in his festivities, which started on the 1st of December on Now Smell This and will continue until Christmas on Andy's own blog as well as various other sites.

The prize is a Tauer Explorer Set, which consists of three 15 ml bottles. The winner will get to choose the three scents, but please note that not all of Tauer Perfumes' fragrances are available in the Explorer Set. For more details, please click here

To enter, please read the terms and conditions below and then leave a comment on this post on the subject of your favourite fragrance discoveries of 2014. What were your highlights of the year? Which new releases did you enjoy the most? Which oldies did you finally get around to trying for the first time?

Please do take the time to read the terms and conditions carefully, as this draw is not open to readers from certain countries.

My thanks to Andy Tauer for making this draw possible and for including me in his Advent celebrations.

Good luck to one and all!


Terms & Conditions

i) the draw will be closed at 6 am (UK time) on Friday 5th December; ii) the winner will be selected at random; iii) the winner will be announced on on Friday 5th December; iv) if the winner has not made contact with by Monday 8th December, an alternative winner may be selected; v) the winner's address will be shared only with Tauer Perfumes, who will post the prize to the winner; vi) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter EXCEPT for those based in Italy, Spain, Croatia, Russia and Greece, as Tauer Perfumes does not ship to these countries; vii) by entering this competition, you indicate that you are able to receive alcohol-based perfume products in your country of residence; viii) the prize will be shipped for free from Switzerland, using FedEx; local taxes, VAT and import fees may apply; these will not be covered by Tauer Perfumes; ix) takes no responsibility for the contents of the perfumes, particularly as regards potential allergens and/or harmful components; x) if the prize is lost in transit, it will not be possible for a replacement to be posted; xi) relatives of anyone associated with are not permitted to enter.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

'Something Very New York' - An Interview With Kelly Kovack Of Odin

I'm not sure how it's perceived in the USA, but here in Britain, Odin seems to be one of those brands which are always slipping beyond the reach of most people's radar. Its portfolio is sizeable and it's stocked in one of London's best perfumery departments, yet it rarely seems to generate much interest amongst scentusiasts, even though many of its wares are worthy of attention. This low profile could possibly be on the brink of a transformation: the brand has just released a so-called 'White Line' - currently consisting of three fragrances - set apart from the signature 'black' range.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Persolaise Review: Sylvan Song from Grossmith (Celine Guivarch; 2014)

Sometimes you just need to stick to what you know best. On occasion, the output of the revived Grossmith has been dismissed as mere 'heritage perfumery', but there's nothing intrinsically wrong with adopting a retro approach if the job's done well. Sylvan Song is a gorgeous case in point. Structurally, it's a familiar musky floral, with a citrusy top and a balsamic base. But the quality of the Robertet ingredients and the elegance of the composition make it impossible to dismiss. The metallic edge of the rose evokes YSL's Rive Gauche. The prettiness of the sweet peas echoes the lush optimism of Lauder's Beautiful. The seamlessness of the transition from fruit to petals to powderiness calls to mind Guerlain's Chamade. There isn't anything especially forest-like about the whole, but of course, 'sylvan' can also mean 'pastoral', which is pretty much spot on. Deep inside a wood, a glade is brought to life by a beam of sunshine. Flowers unfurl and blades of grass reach up towards the sky. And as the flora and fauna bask in the warmth, the sound of a lute strumming a Medieval tune weaves its way into the clearing, casting a gentle enchantment upon all who hear it. Delightful work.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Grossmith in 2014; Sylvan Song is exclusive to Fortnum & Mason.]


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 chances are you'll 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.


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