Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Non-Perfume Post: The Pumpkin Seed - A Children's Book By Dariush Alavi

cover illustration: Joy Richardson

Many of you will be aware that I hardly ever post anything on this blog which isn't related to perfume in some way, so I hope you'll forgive this rare deviation from Persolaise.com's usual path. A few years ago, I wrote a short children's book called The Pumpkin Seed and I've now decided it's time to make it available on Amazon (under my real name, Dariush Alavi). I won't describe it in any detail here - full info is available on the book's Amazon listings - but I will say that any kids who've read it (or have had it read to them) seem to have found it captivating. Indeed, a teacher at a local primary school has used it as a class text for several years, with great success.

It's available both as an e-book and a paperback. If you were able to find the time to buy it and read it - or, perhaps, recommend it to someone with young children - I would be indescribably grateful. To find the book on Amazon UK, please click here, and for the Amazon USA listing, please click here.

Thanks for reading this. I promise to return to scented matters in the next post.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Persolaise Review: No. 10 White Oud from Agonist (2014)

Before you scream in horror at the sight of that dreaded three-letter word, let me tell you one thing: No. 10 White Oud is an oud which doesn't even pretend to contain any oud. For their tenth fragrance, Agonist's Christine Gustafsson and Niclas Lydeen decided to subvert the much-derided oud trend by commissioning a fragrance which would express an imaginary, alabaster oud, as opposed to the gravestone heaviness of a real-world, 'black' oud. To make the project more exciting, they stipulated that the scent shouldn't contain any agarwood oil.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Persolaise On Men's Scents In How To Spend It

A few months ago, I was interviewed by Lucia Van Der Post for an article she was writing about fragrances for men. Her piece was published in the FT's How To Spend It in December, but it only recently appeared in the magazine's online version. It features my thoughts on Guerlain Habit Rouge, Tauer's Lonestar Memories and Chanel's Antaeus, as well as contributions from Michael Donovan and Chandler Burr. If you'd like to read it, please click here. Those of you who use iPads and other tablets may like to read the article using the How To Spend It app.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Persolaise Review: Coco Noir extrait from Chanel (Jacques Polge; 2014)

Considering that it hasn't been pushed in any significant way by Chanel's daunting marketing machine, Coco Noir has won an impressive number of followers. The general consensus amongst critics was that it failed to come anywhere near the standard set by the likes of No. 5, No. 19 or Antaeus, but it clearly struck a chord with a sector of the buying public and its performance has reportedly been healthy. Now we have the extrait and although it is unquestionably richer and denser than the eau de parfum, I doubt it'll persuade many scentusiasts to part with their pennies. The scent is essentially the same - a musky, patchouli oriental - but the fruit note of the edp has been toned down and replaced with a stronger floral facet, composed mainly of rose and jasmine. It smells as familiar as it sounds, but that's not to say it is anything less than pleasant. The press info insists that this iteration is even more baroque and Venetian than the eau de parfum. I could argue this wouldn't be hard to achieve, as I found almost nothing baroque about the edp. However, it cannot be denied that the extrait displays the odd hint of an introspective darkness. That said, it is ultimately a fearful piece of work. Like so much of Chanel's current, non-exclusive output, it interacts with the world like a trepidatious tourist: it's happy to dip into Byzantine mysteries, but before things get too serious, it withdraws and scurries away.

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


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

News: Persolaise Shortlisted For 2014 Jasmine Awards

A brief item from me today, just to let you know that my scribblings have been recognised by this year's Jasmine Award judges. Three of my articles have been shortlisted for the 'Bloggers Award': Kicking Up A Stink (my definitive guide to the best oud perfumes), my review of Jacques Fath's Iris Gris and, last but not least, Guardians Of The Past, a piece I wrote for Basenotes about my visit to the Osmothèque, which, appropriately enough, is where I first encountered Iris Gris. Click on the links if you'd like to read the pieces. I'd like to express warm thanks to the judges and heartfelt congratulations to the other shortlisted writers, across all of the other categories. It's gratifying to be in the company of some excellent wordsmiths. The winners will be announced on 18th March. I expect the full list of nominees will be published on the Jasmine website in due course.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Never At Sephora - Bertrand Duchaufour At The Launch Of Penhaligon's Ostara

Towards the end of 2014, Bertrand Duchaufour popped into London to launch Ostara, his latest creation for Penhaligon's. Inspired by a perfume he encountered in Jodhpur - where he was carrying out research for Vaara - it aims to recreate the scent of a daffodil and, by extension, to evoke notions of optimism, fertility and rebirth. If those three words make you think of spring, then you're not far off the mark: Ostara (or Ēostre) is the ancient Germanic goddess of the dawn and, as it happens, the source of the word 'Easter', a holiday which, at least in the UK, is always associated with daffodils. The humble flower doesn't often find itself featured in scent compositions, so I decided it would form a sensible topic from which to begin my discussion with Duchaufour. I asked him how he went about putting together its smell.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Persolaise Review: Aromatics In White from Clinique (Nicolas Beaulieu; 2015)

By the pricking of my thumbs, something musky this way comes. Or should that be, "something snowy"? Two trends seem to be gaining momentum in the perfume world - i) a greater emphasis on creamy musk materials; ii) a more prominent use of pearl-coloured aesthetics in packaging - and they both find expression in the latest release from Clinique, Aromatics In White, composed by IFF's Nicolas Beaulieu.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"You Have To Be More Direct" - An Interview With Carlos Benaïm

"Frederic Malle is much more directive. But he doesn't tell you what to do. I would sit with him and he would give ideas. Sometimes I agreed with his ideas, sometimes I didn't. We experimented a lot, we tried a million things. The work was more... how can I say?... checked by Frederic, than in the case of Dunhill. Both types of processes are interesting. The process of Frederic Malle is very exacting and very thorough... and a true process."
To read my interview with perfumer Carlos Benaïm - in which he discusses Ralph Lauren Polo, Eternity For Men, Eau De Magnolia, Dunhill's new Icon and the way his style has changed over the years - please click on this link to Basenotes.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Persolaise Review: La Religieuse from Serge Lutens (Christopher Sheldrake; 2015)

Waiting for the next Lutens release has almost become like anticipating the next movie from Terrence Malick. Granted, Uncle Serge doesn't exercise our patience quite as much as Malick does, but the narrative cohesiveness of his recent perfumes has been so pronounced that the arrival of a new one sparks exactly the sorts of questions that could be asked of a creation from a cinema auteur: how will it pick up from where the previous one concluded? what will it have to say about x, y and z? in which direction will it push the body of work as a whole? It's not surprising, then, that it was with considerable excitement that I wore Lutens' latest olfactory tale, La Religieuse, put together by his regular perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Scent & Sensibility To Close Down - Buy Your Favourite Tauer Perfumes Now

Some of you may be aware that the Swiss franc went through what might wryly be called an 'unexpected situation' last week (click here for the BBC's description of the event and here for a Guardian piece about the immediate effects). One of the consequences is that Tauer Perfumes have had to increase their prices, in relation to the euro and and pound (click here for Andy Tauer's blog post on the subject). The ripples of this change have travelled across the Alps and the Channel, all the way to this grey little isle, with the result that Scent & Sensibility Perfume - the retailer which first brought Tauer to the UK - has decided to shut its virtual doors. The site has started a closing down sale. All its Tauer creations are being sold at last week's, pre-currency-drama prices. Whilst you ponder what long-term effects all this is going to have on the future of perfume shopping, you may want to give serious thought to spending some of your hard-earned pennies on a few of Andy's gorgeous creations. Please click here to be taken to the Scent & Sensibility Perfume site or here to see their Facebook page. Please note that S&S also offer wares from the likes of Aftelier, Soivohle, Dorissima and Andy's cinema-inspired brand, Tableau De Parfums.

Sending warmest wishes to Ronny Geller, the founder of Scent & Sensibility, together with heartfelt thanks for all the support she has given this blog over the years,


Friday, January 16, 2015

Persolaise Review: Aperture from Ulrich Lang (2013)

You know a perfume is sufficiently interesting in its own right when wearing it makes you forget its marketing baggage. In this case, the 'story' revolves around photography and Lang's support of a collective - also called Aperture - founded in 1952 to create "common ground for the advancement of photography". That's all well and good, and I wouldn't wish to belittle any publicity the fragrance might be able to drum up for the organisation in question. But it would also be a shame if this release came to be known as nothing more than an 'agenda scent' (see 2012's In Peace).

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Vote For The Best Perfumes Of 2014

As we sink deeper into the melee affectionately described as 'awards season', some of you might like to make your own voices heard about your favourite perfume releases of last year. If so, here are a couple of opportunities. If you click on this link, you'll be taken to the Basenotes Reader Awards page, where you can select your favourites in several different categories, from Best Niche Fragrance, to Best Perfume Ever and Best Perfumery. Your choices are not restricted in any way: you can vote for whichever perfumes you like. However, you do need to be signed up to Basenotes to be eligible to vote. It's also worth noting that this year, the Basenotes team have put together a prize draw for anyone who submits votes. The deadline for submission is 28th February.

The second opportunity is perhaps less exciting, but no less interesting. If you click here, you should be directed to a Basenotes poll I put together a few days ago. It features a list of the perfumes which came up most frequently in various critics' Best Of charts. All you have to do is choose the one perfume which you think is better than all of the others. I concede that, as far as polls go, it isn't entirely scientific and it doesn't take into account the fact that most people won't have had a chance to sniff all the scents on the list. But hey, even the American film Academy's members aren't obliged to watch all the movies nominated for Oscars, so on this occasion, perhaps we can push technicalities to one side. And besides, I always think it's fascinating to see what does well in such polls: they provide telling insights into which perfumes manage to filter through to a wider audience. As I write these words, Dior's Cuir Cannage is in the lead, but of course, that could change.

Finally, whilst I'm in a Basenotes mood, I'll mention this article (click on the link) in which various contributors to the site, including yours truly, were asked to name some of their scent highlights of 2014.

Happy reading,


Friday, January 9, 2015

Persolaise Review: Kerbside Violet from Gorilla Perfume (Simon & Mark Constantine; 2014)

Violet leaf absolute is one of those materials which serve to show how utterly impossible it is to describe smells with words. In perfumer-shorthand, it's called 'green', but that places it in the same category as galbanum (think: peas and peppers) and cis-3-hexenol (cut grass), which doesn't really help a layperson gain an understanding of its unique odour profile. Sure, it shares a few facets with grass, but it's also melony, waxy, sappy, vegetal and eye-poppingly bracing. Like the opening of Dior's Fahrenheit - which famously contains a notable quantity of it - it hisses with organic life.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy 2015!

A very happy new year to all of you. I hope you've recovered from the excesses of the festive season and are looking forward to twelve months of peace, happiness, good health and, of course, numerous encounters with gorgeous perfumes. At this stage it's impossible to tell what 2015's scented highlights are going to be. Will Mathilde Laurent impress us with her olfactory take on Proust - L'Heure Perdue - for Cartier? Will Uncle Serge charge even more than £380 for his next creation? And will Estée Lauder buy up any other niche brands? Who knows. Time will reveal everything, no doubt. Meanwhile, Persolaise.com kicks back into normal gear on Friday with this year's first review. Until then, let's reach for another mince pie, shall we?


Monday, December 29, 2014

Best Perfumes Of 2014 - A Time For Looking Back

If a pining for the past is a sign of social disquiet, then 2014 must have been a worrying year for the perfume industry: a significant proportion of new releases focussed on bygone eras, presenting 'retro' aesthetics in an attempt to win over an increasingly apathetic public. This was particularly apparent in the number of old-school leather scents which hit the shelves. Granted, several of them were very good indeed - you'll find a few below - but they did suggest that scent-makers' creative endeavours were in a holding pattern, unwilling to stray too far from a familiar flight path.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Wishes 2014

We've nearly made it, folks. We just need to get through that pile of mince pies in the corner, the presents under the tree, the turkey in the oven... and then we'll be home free.

I'd like to wish all of you the very best for the festive season. I hope you find the time to relax, unwind and dig out those old samples you've been meaning to sniff for months. Please come back on Monday 29th December for my round-up of the best perfumes of the year. Until then: enjoy the feasting!


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.


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