Friday, October 2, 2015

Lutens Keep Playing

...continued from yesterday's post (click here to be taken to it)

The latest entries from some of the more bling-tastic brands haven't registered on my fragrance radar. I have sniffed the odd Clive Christian and Xerjoff, but I've rarely been moved to think about them for very long, let alone commit my musings to this site. But Lutens keeps playing on my mind. Maybe it's because there's something about the Section D'Or range which I find disappointing. I don't mean the scents themselves, but the fact that, with their release, the brand has upped the ante to an alarming degree. We all know that perfume houses aren't charities, but as far as business moves go, this one seems especially cynical and mercenary, not least because it comes from an organisation which, historically, has paid considerable attention to exploring and furthering the art of perfumery.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Getting A Masterpiece

Bulgari's Le Gemme Orientali

Perfume prices continue to leap with a vigour that's normally the preserve of Olympic athletes. Last year, Serge Lutens made a brave jump with the first of their Section D'Or releases, L'Incendiaire (UK price: £380 for 50 ml of extrait). This year, as many of you will be aware, the brand has added 5 new compositions to the range, with prices ranging from £425 (for Cannibale, a traditional, spicy leather) to £525 (for Cracheuse De Flammes). Bulgari have extended their set of Le Gemme scents with a trio they're labelling Le Gemme Orientali. Each one will set you back £231 for 100 ml of eau de parfum. Amouage's prices are reaching ever closer to the tops of those Scheherazade minarets. As a reader pointed out on this site, Sunshine Man is £255 for 100 ml of edp. It's not that long ago that the price of the brand's Library Collection (around the £200 mark) was enough to cause scentusiasts to think about remortgaging their houses. And of course, the likes of Roja Parfums, Clive Christian and Xerjoff continue to charge £400 and above for some of their latest releases.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Making Wasabi - An Interview With Céline Verleure Of Olfactive Studio

Regular readers will be aware that Olfactive Studio's Panorama is without question one of my favourite perfume releases of the year so far. With its juxtaposition of a laser-charged, green wasabi note and a contemplative myrrh drydown, it has enthralled me from the moment I first encountered it. Eager to find out more about its creation, I contacted the brand's founder, Céline Verleure, with a few questions, which, I'm pleased to say, she agreed to answer via email. I started by asking her what came first with Panorama: the idea for a 'wild urban' scent or the Miguel Sandinha photograph which accompanies the perfume (see below).

Céline Verleure: The idea of the photo with a jungle came first. Then I found a photo in the right place, but could not get the rights to it. We decided to fly to Los Angeles for 2 days with a French photographer to shoot this picture and decided to focus more on the view than on the house, and we named it Panorama. The wasabi wild scent idea came in parallel with the jungle picture.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Persolaise Review: Florabellio from Diptyque (Fabrice Pellegrin; 2015)

How thrilling it is when an idea manages to survive the journey from thought to creation. At the London launch of Florabellio, perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin explained that the vision he'd hoped to convey with the fragrance was of an inward-looking setting nuzzled by a broader landscape. He decided that coffee and roasted sesame seeds would represent the domestic, urban realm: warm and cocoon-like, but also self-centred. He wanted an apple blossom note to act as the bridge between the core and the periphery, setting off the fruit's inviting sweetness against the bitterness of the coffee. And finally, he determined that the expansiveness of the world beyond would appear in the form of an anisic marine facet, created through the use of sea fennel. Well, I'm pleased to report that Florabellio fulfils all his intentions to a commendable degree. It glows with comforting heat, yet it's bracing. It delves into a private enclosure even whilst reaching across distances. And it has room in its rustic environment for a suggestion of the metropolitan. It doesn't quite keep up the charm through to the end - its drydown succumbs to a chilly thinness - but I'm willing to forgive its shortcomings for the enjoyment of its opening stages. As is the case with Diptyque's best compositions, Florabellio presents a swooning, impressionistic portrait of a romantic locale and - with that magic peculiar to perfumery - makes you want to jump on the next flight to a breakfast on a sunny patio somewhere. It's just a shame the bottle doesn't come with plane tickets.

[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Diptyque in 2015.]


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Try To Negotiate

There's lots and lots to do whilst life and I try to negotiate the most pain-free way of slipping back into regular routines. For one thing, I seem to have accumulated quite a few interviews which need transcribing or whipping into shape. There's one with Olfactive Studio's Céline Verleure in which she provides insights into the creation of Panorama, without doubt one of my favourite scents of the summer. Then there's a fairly recent chat with Rodrigo Flores-Roux, in which he offered a characteristically precise explanation of what he sees as the stylistic differences between niche and mainstream creations. And finally, I must let you all read a brief conversation I had with Dominique Ropion, not least because he revealed exactly how much oud he poured into Frederic Malle's chokingly expensive The Night. Time to get typing, I think...


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Perfume Explosion At London's Burlington Arcade

It's all happening at Burlington Arcade! Penhaligon's have had a branch there for years, of course, but Chanel unveiled a store beneath the elegant, arched ceiling not too long ago, Frederic Malle's boutique began trading in August (although I should point out that it hasn't had its official opening yet) and now, Roja Parfums have joined the gang, with a teaser proclaiming the imminent arrival of their first London store. Before too long, passersby will find it impossible to distinguish the smell of the fragrances from that of the Laduree macarons. The revival of the one-brand shop is an intriguing trend. A few days ago, I was interviewing Rodrigo Flores-Roux at the launch of the new Dark Rebel from John Varvatos, and he informed me that pre-WWII Paris was home to no fewer than 600 perfumeries, most of which were single-brand establishments. At a time when ordering scents online has become a matter of course for many people, some fragrance houses seem to have decided - unsurprisingly - that their unique selling point will be the In-Store Experience. It'll be interesting to see if the move pays off.


PS For a telling addition to the Burlington Arcade story, please click here.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Persolaise Review: Sunshine Man from Amouage (Pierre Negrin & Fabrice Pellegrin; 2015)

Ah, dear old lavender. When it's misused - as it so often is - it's a whopping clanger of a cliche, plunging a composition into the depths of the generic, be that 'generic fresh', 'generic man' or, dare I say it, 'generic old lady'. But when it's handled by experts, it is the scent equivalent of light, pushing aside all dejection like a hand parting a curtain on a vivid Sunday morning, filling a room with dawn optimism. It's safe to assume that Amouage's Creative Director, Christopher Chong, agrees with my view on the material, as he has chosen to give it prominence in a scent called, appropriately enough, Sunshine. Assembled by Pierre Negrin and Fabrice Pellegrin, the perfume takes Provence's most tourist-friendly export, attaches it to the burnt, maple syrup stickiness of immortelle (shades of Dior's Eau Noire), places it over solid woods and sprinkles the lot with more pepper than I've seen used in a fragrance for many a year. The result is an irrepressibly joyful, modern fougère, and - with its spicy-sweet core - one of the most interesting olfactory statements on 21st century masculinity since Dominique Ropion's Geranium Pour Monsieur for Frederic Malle. A luminous, life-affirming delight!

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Amouage in 2015]


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Rising Notes

Perfume and death. Connections between the two have been made for centuries. Roses are snuffed out so their essence may be captured. White flowers reveal their most seductive odours just at the point of decay. Incense is carried to the sky by the rising notes of a requiem. But maybe the links run deeper still. Maybe perfume itself - as an idea, an invention, a construct - is an expression of mortality. It bursts into life. It settles. And then it fades, despite all our attempts to keep it alive. Maybe perfume is a scented version of a sand mandala: created only to vanish. Maybe part of its purpose is to perish.  Of course, one heart-breaking consequence of this link between scent and the underworld is that the former has the power to grant us a glimpse into the latter. Smells revive the dead, albeit briefly. And a few days ago, when all our hopes and wishes and vigils ended in the inevitable, a new perfume joined Poison and Fidji in my personal lexicon of the departed: Eau Sauvage. From this point onwards, treasuring a bottle of it will be as important as hanging on to every single memory of the man who loved wearing it.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Persolaise Review: Nanban from Arquiste (Rodrigo Flores-Roux; 2015)

After a side-step that saw him produce two scents in collaboration with J Crew, Arquiste's Carlos Huber returns to his signature range and quells fears that his sensibilities may have been growing too mainstream with the release of Nanban* (composed by Rodrigo Flores-Roux). Nocturnal, tempestuous and grandiose, it's inspired by a period in Japan's 17th century history when the country sealed itself off from the outside world, suspicious of the work of foreign missionaries. Not long before this self-imposed isolation, a Japanese galleon returned to its home, bearing contents that Flores-Roux, hundreds of years later, has used as a blueprint for Nanban's olfactory details.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Sweet Crust

Health & Safety be damned. The other day, I went to our local hospital to visit the ailing relative I mentioned in a recent post, bearing food for various family members who'd been keeping vigil for hours. In my stash of goodies were a couple of Waitrose crème brûlées, of the sort that come with sachets of brown sugar to sprinkle on top and caramelise. When I bought them, I told myself that, on this occasion, the hungry would probably have to go without the sweet crust. But then I decided that hospital or no hospital, crème brûlée isn't crème brûlée without its candied shell... so I crept onto the ward carrying a concealed blowtorch! I'd never realised how much smoke is produced by burning sugar. But fear not: with a good deal of strategic fanning, we ensured the fire alarms weren't set off. The naughtiness was worth it. For one thing, it made us chuckle. For another, it filled the room with the nutty, warm, childhood scent of caramel. The aroma hung above us, and for a minute or two, some sense of normality was restored.


PS Do check back tomorrow for my review of Nanban, the latest release from Arquiste, which will be showcased by the brand at Florence's Pitti exhibition, commencing on Friday.

The 500 Greatest Modern Perfumes On Basenotes

Oh my goodness! Geek fest! Look at what Basenotes are doing. To celebrate their 15th anniversary, they've compiled a list of the "greatest perfumes" - as per various criteria described on the site - released since 2000. As I type these words, numbers 500 to 480 have been revealed... and several wonderful surprises have already popped up, including the appearance of Neela Vermeire's masterful Trayee (composed by Bertrand Duchaufour) at number 498. Early indications are that the final list will form a fascinating chronicle of the last 15 years of perfumery: Tauer's Eau D'Épices, Gucci's Eau De Parfum II, Britney Spears' Fantasy and Guerlain's L'Homme Ideal are all within heavy breathing distance of each other. Poignantly, Basenotes' editors have indicated that many of the fragrances on the list are no longer in production. To start reading the rundown, please click here.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Simmering The Fruit

It really is a stultifying cliche, but the power of smells to evoke memories is tremendous. And always surprising. And often difficult to comprehend fully. I mentioned plums and jam in yesterday's post. As I was simmering the fruit - halved and stoned, of course - in sugar and water, I lowered my head towards the saucepan, breathed in the aroma rising from the purple froth - tart, boozy, woody - and within moments, I was back in Poland. But I couldn't tell you exactly where or when. I had a hazy vision of my maternal grandmother in her flat in Warsaw's Mokotów district. I could see her standing in her narrow kitchen, bent over the cooker. But that was all. I chased the memory, but it eluded me. I don't recall whether, during the times we stayed with her, she used to make powidła, a dense, Polish variation of plum jam. Certainly, she was always pickling cucumbers and mushrooms. So perhaps plums were in her repertoire too. I'm not sure. Maybe, the next time I inhale that scent, the mirage will be sharper.


Monday, September 7, 2015

A Therapeutic Business

Although the blue skies outside my window would suggest otherwise, the chill in the night air and my calendar tell me that summer is definitely over. Soon, I hope to start gearing into pre-Christmas mode (profuse apologies for using the 9-letter word in September), but the demands of every day life are quite heavy at the moment, not least because we're caring for an extremely unwell, Eau Sauvage-loving relative. Priorities shift. Plans change. A few weeks ago, I was certain I'd be going to Florence for the Pitti fragrance exhibition this weekend. Now, I'm less sure. I'll have to wait and see how the situation develops. In the meantime, the plums in the garden need picking. Always something to do... but I don't mind if it results in making jam, which is often a therapeutic business. Plus, it fills the house with the most comforting scents.

I hope the summer treated all of you well!


Friday, September 4, 2015

Persolaise Review: J'Adore Touche De Parfum from Christian Dior (François Demachy; 2015)

The J'Adore family welcomes a glamorous new cousin, dubbed Touche De Parfum. With her oil-based constitution, she may well have been brought into the fold to woo the Middle Eastern market, but I'm not complaining, because she's one of the most beguiling creatures Dior have added to their mainstream range for several years. Eschewing top notes, François Demachy has emboldened the familiar green-jasmine accord of Calice Becker's original composition with silky musks, headier florals (ah, the tuberose!) and, most notably, a delectable sandalwood. What emerges is a tribute to the spirit of the 80s, a golden nectar of a scent, combining the most addictive elements of Dior's own Poison and Guerlain's Samsara with a 21st century avoidance of needless grandeur and a love of transparency. Dior hope that customers will use this Touche De Parfum iteration as a base for their favourite version of J'Adore, and although the oil stands on its own as a bona fide fragrance, it's hard to resist the brand's proposition. The possibilities are too enticing to refuse.

[Review based on a sample provided by Christian Dior in 2015.]


Persolaise Review: Sauvage from Christian Dior (François Demachy; 2015)

Sigh sigh sigh. There are several springboards from which I could leap into my review of Dior's new Sauvage (composed by in-house perfumer, François Demachy), but despite my best efforts to remain upbeat, none of them would avoid falling into despondency. I could start with the scent's advertising imagery and take my lead from the fact that, as Persolaise Junior #2 pointed out, Johnny Depp's facial expression suggests that something rather nasty has just wafted past his nose. I could bemoan the apparent lack of original ideas at the house of Dior: not only does this creation come in a bottle already used for the brand's Collection Privée, but its name is a depressing and transparent attempt to ride on (and therefore dilute?) the status of one of the most successful masculines of all time (the one that's so well-known, you don't need me to tell you what it's called). I could also argue that Sauvage is little more than Dior's version of Bleu De Chanel, right down to the hue of its flacon. But instead I think I'm going to focus on a subject which is often mentioned in scent-speak, but rarely given serious attention: bergamot.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Persolaise Review: Jack from Jack Perfume (Aliénor Massenet; 2014)

According to his exhilarating account of the creation of his first scent (click here to read it), Richard E Grant was advised to aim for a polarising composition. Nothing wishy-washy: people had to either love it or hate it. You can detect the fruits of that suggestion in the finished fragrance. Although Jack opens with a collection of materials familiar from most cologne-like releases (lemon, lime, herbs) it quickly moves into bolder territory: grapefruit*.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Risk And The Reward - Richard E Grant On The Creation Of Jack

In his engrossing online account of the birth of his perfume Jack (I'd urge you to click here and check it out) Richard E Grant describes a creation process rich with twists, dead-ends and unexpected developments. So when his scent was awarded this year's Fragrance Foundation UK prize for Best Independent Perfume, I decided the time had come to reach out to the actor and try to fill some of the gaps in the story. I'm pleased to say he readily entered into the following email correspondence with me...

Persolaise: The story of Jack - as documented on your site - begins with gardenia, but the smell of the flower doesn't seem to have made it into the final perfume. I read that you presented some gardenia to the perfumer at your first meeting. Did she try to incorporate it into the scent? Did it perhaps not work with the other elements? Were you perhaps warned that it's considered to be too old-lady-ish?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Persolaise Review: Ex Nihilo

I'm not sure my attempt at humour was appreciated. A few weeks ago, I was at the Salon De Parfums on the top floor of Harrods, being talked through the wares of the relatively new Ex Nihilo brand. And of course, as any of you who know its Unique Selling Point will guess, I was shown the workings of a large, highly-polished, cylindrical device they call the Osmologue. Essentially, the gizmo allows buyers to create semi-bespoke versions of the brand's scents by adding an extra ingredient from a pre-selected set. The process involves placing the fragrance inside the Osmologue, pressing a couple of buttons and watching whilst a few liquids are squirted into the bottle. As I stood gazing upon this piece of olfactory theatre, I was struck by the thought that the whole thing was rather like buying mix-your-own-colour Dulux paint at B&Q. So I decided to share this profound insight with my hosts. But I don't think they were impressed.


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