I continue to view the output of Atelier Cologne with both interest and suspicion. They insist that their ‘cologne absolues’ are fresh compositions that manage to pull off the fiendish trick of lasting longer than traditional colognes. But the truth is that many of their scents tick the longevity box because they eschew lightness and rely on hard-hitting ingredients to achieve tenacity... which essentially means they end up being like any other eau de parfum. However, sometimes the concept and the execution come together to produce a praiseworthy result, as in the case of Jerome Epinette's Mandarine Glaciale. We’re used to the idea of aldehydes lending a sense of cool, detached elegance to florals and resins (you may have heard of a perfume called No. 5) but I can’t think of many instances where their influence is used on citruses. Here, the faintly saline, flint-like quality of mandarin is attached with great skill to the deep-chill hauteur of candle-wax aldehydes, which, when they segue into the pine-and-incense heart, create a compelling image of a flash of colour placed in an unexpected context, like a flamingo against a snow-covered peak in Switzerland. It’s a startling picture and yes, as the brand would have us believe, it lasts. An enjoyable piece of work which reminds you that although we love lemons and oranges for how they conjure impressions of Mediterranean balminess, there’s also nothing quite like the tingling pleasure of running your tongue across a deep-frozen citrus sorbet.
[Review based on a sample of cologne absolue provided by Atelier Cologne in 2018.]
For my next live video stream, I'm going to be joining the wonderful people at Feelunique and broadcasting a perfume Q&A session through their Instagram channel, so please do try to join me. The stream will begin at around 1:00 pm (UK time) on Thursday 8th November.
Aura eau de toilette from Mugler (2018)*
Plays it even safer than the edp, toning down the vine-y greenness to make more room for the pear and the vanilla. If it does create a halo, it’s aimed squarely at Insta-pouting millennials.
Nuit D’Issey Noir Argent from Issey Miyake (Dominique Ropion; 2018)*
One of the better mainstream masculines of the last year. Cinnamon, nutmeg and a leafy-green tobacco against a distant backdrop of ozonic woods. Not as complicated as its name.
L’Insoumis Ma Force from Lalique (Fabrice Pellegrin; 2018)*
Add it to the endless list of those citrus-woody-amber masculines that make a compelling case for an all-female society. La force is weak with this one.
Does anyone else play this game? A few weeks ago, Madame Persolaise and I found ourselves in a medium-sized European airport and, as she usually does in such situations, she’d arrived unscented so that I could look around the shop and choose something for her. As most Duty Frees still don’t stock non-mainstream releases - they can’t all be like Dubai International, I suppose - I always find this an interesting little exercise in working out what I’d wear - or buy for someone else - if I didn’t have access to the wares of the independent sector, or even the ‘exclusive’ lines from the more familiar brands. As my eyes glanced over the Versaces, the Armanis and the D&G’s, I wondered if my interest in perfumery would have been as strong as it is today if I’d been brought up on a diet of current mainstream fare (ie Invictus, YSL L’Homme and Eros) rather than that of the 80s and 90s (Antaeus, Fahrenheit, CK One).
Illustration: Bonzer Muivah for Harper's Bazaar India
I'm excited to announce that the 10th anniversary issue of Harper's Bazaar India features an article by yours truly on the subject of perfumes for millennials. To read a tablet version, please search for 'Harper's Bazaar India' on your device.
My latest Love At First Scent video (live streamed on Facebook on 5th October 2018) is a review of the Layers 01 scents from Experimental Perfume Club: they can be purchased individually or as a set which contains an empty bottle in which you can create your own combination of them. To find out more, watch the video above, or click here to watch it on YouTube.
I'm delighted to announce that my latest piece for Business Traveller - focussing on scents inspired by journeys and exciting destinations - has just been published. It's available in both the magazine's digital and print editions; for more details, please click here.
It’s not often in perfumery that you’re given an opportunity to witness a scent-maker revisiting and honing a particular idea. Two examples that come to mind are Edmond Roudnitska following a train of olfactory thought through Femme, Diorella and Parfum De Therese, and Jean-Claude Ellena refining his various tea compositions. Now we have the case of Michel Almairac and his Gucci Pour Homme from 2003. A justly-adored beauty when it was released, it presented an almost heart-breaking, geometrically-impeccable balance between the fleshy delights of amber, the Sahara dryness of cedar, the facetiousness of pink pepper and the meditative wisdom of incense. Like Eau Sauvage and Habit Rouge, it was one of those conclusive, line-in-the-sand statements on masculinity, bridging the gap between the overtly macho releases of the 80s and the more emotionally literate works that followed. In their infinite wisdom, Gucci discontinued the scent, but a few years ago, Almairac returned to the same structure when asked to create Bentley For Men Absolute. The core accords were immediately recognisable, but they had been darkened by heavier woods. And in 2018, for his own Parle Moi De Parfum brand - co-created with his sons - Almairac presents Papyrus Oud: the same, perfect core, now given a very subtly Middle Eastern twist. In fact, so gentle is the oud note, I wonder if it should’ve been mentioned in the name at all, as it will no doubt lead some to expect a different sort of scent. But never mind. The master has refined one of his finest works, and we’re all the richer for it.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Parle Moi De Parfum in 2018.]
Ascribing a personality to a perfume has long been a trick used by the likes of yours truly to get past the challenge of conveying olfactory sensations in words. No 5 is the impeccable, pouting, Gallic femme. Nahema is the tempestuous princess. Angel is the less-ditzy-than-she-makes-out twentysomething. So when a new brand turns the game into its modus operandi, you can’t help but see the move as a cheeky invitation to test its premise. Do its fragrances really match up to the characters on their packaging?
Smelling Dior’s new Joy (fear not: the Patou people gave them permission to use the name… and they’re now owned by LVMH) made me think of the phrase that was so often repeated on the news during the recent financial crisis: too big to fail. Except that, in Dior’s case, I wondered if it wouldn’t have been more accurate as ‘too big to risk’. Fragrance brands are not and never have been charities. We know that. And we realise that, much as we’d like to imagine them indulging in free-spirited exercises in innovation and self-expression, they serve the needs of the bottom line and they have no choice but to generate profits. And not just any profits. These need to be sums that, as far as Dior is concerned, have to prop up a globe-spanning operation that employs thousands of bodies and does its bit for one of the most gigantic luxury goods companies the world has ever seen. And here’s something else we all know too: size is scary. So when placed under the pressure of such monolithic proportions, it isn’t all that surprising that Dior and its equivalents play it safe.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Michael Pavlich on his Overnights programme on Australia's ABC Radio. The segment is now available online, so if you'd like to listen to it, please click here. It covers a range of topics, from the history of perfumery to the high price tags of modern scents. And we even had time to take some questions from callers!
The next episode of my Love At First Scent series will be on Facebook Live on Friday 7th September at 4:00 pm UK time (11:00 am New York time). I hope you'll be able to tune in.
At a time when the number of annual perfume releases continues to hit the 2000+ mark, it is increasingly difficult to work out which compositions influence the aesthetics of future scents. The stats are simply too overwhelming: when you're dealing with so many individual pieces of work - and inordinate pressure to emulate the success of others - many are bound to smell very similar and several will go unsniffed and unmentioned. Therefore, trying to discern the precise - or even the vague - starting point of a penchant for a certain style is challenging, to say the least. But despite this, a few perfumes somehow manage to strike a chord so decisively that their power over everything that comes after them is almost impossible to deny. One such beast is Dominique Ropion’s Portrait Of A Lady for Frederic Malle, which finds its image reflected in the new Belgravia Chypre from Penhaligon’s, much to the vexation of many people, it would seem.
Just a few lines from me to say that as summer draws to a close and the leaves on the trees begin to take on an ambery hue, it's time to resume normal services and schedule the next episode of Love At First Scent. So, if you're free on Friday 31st August 2018 at 2:30 pm UK time (9:30 am New York time) then please do join me on the Persolaise Facebook page for the 19th episode of my series of live reviews.
For more mini-reviews, please click here. Oud extrait de parfum from Maison Francis Kurkdjian (Francis Kurkdjian; 2018)*
When Kurkdjian released his first Oud in 2012, he did what many perfumers claim - but fail - to do: present a genuine bridge between east and west, or in this case, between Europe and Arabia. His composition contained the requisite animalic-medicinal growl of oud, but it also depended on the pulling-power of more occidental citruses, woods and synthetic musks. The result was one of my favourite scents of the 21st century, an olfactory homage to boundary-breaking, in the same way that The English Patient was a literary and cinematic treatise on borders and artificial territories. Now Kurkdjian has released an extrait version. It’s just as wonderful as the first and probably more timely. Do seek them both out if you haven’t already. Invictus Aqua from Paco Rabanne (Nicolas Beaulieu, Juliette Karagueuzoglou; 2018)*
Somewhere, in a post-apocalyptic landscape, the neo-Neanderthals douse themselves with a desolate concoction of brainless citruses and even more moronic amber-woods, ie this new version of Invictus. Or as I shall call it from now on: Invidious.
Olympéa Aqua edp legere from Paco Rabanne (Loc Dong, Fanny Bal; 2018)*
As far as modern, floral-vanillic-patchouli feminines go, this one isn’t more offensive than any others. In fact, it even hints at the existence of a more sophisticated interior now and then. But it’s hard to get excited about such trend-followers.