Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Scented Year - 2010

Image: Roxana Villa
The year's almost over, which means it must be time for another list. Today, I'm very pleased to be able to take part in an inter-blog roundup of the Best Of 2010. I've decided to branch away from mentioning just perfumes and include any memorable fragrance-related experiences, so without further ado - and in no particular order - here's my selection:

Attending The Perfume Diaries At Harrods - Unquestionably one of the best perfumery exhibitions ever staged in Britain. Apart from displaying an astonishing range of classic flacons, it also showcased several excellent events, from an audience with Jean-Paul Guerlain and Thierry Wasser, to a presentation by the chief archivist at Baccarat.

Meeting Andy Tauer - I realise these pages have often run the risk of turning into the headquarters of the unofficial Tauer Fan Club, but I make no apology for that. I love the man's work and I especially enjoy reading his blog, which is why I was thrilled to be able to spend some time in his company at the London launch of Orange Star.

Popping Into Les Senteurs - It's hard to believe that this time last year, I hadn't yet set foot in one of the UK's leading independent perfume shops. It's a magical, must-see place in which the minutes always fly by in a delightfully scented haze.

Wandering Around Muhammed Ali Road - Sitting at my laptop in a house that's surrounded by ice, it's odd to think that a few months ago, Madame Persolaise and I were doing daily battle with the relentless onslaught of Mumbai's monsoon. Despite the weather, we managed to enjoy quite a few trips to the city's fascinating perfume shops and we even got to sample a drink made of vetivert!

Writing For Basenotes - The combination of perfume and writing is a match made in heaven as far as I'm concerned, so it's no surprise that I've thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities I was given this year to put together several articles for one of the world's top perfume sites.

Surrendering To Paris - I know, I know, I haven't shared any details yet - and I promise I will soon - but for the moment, suffice it to say that last week's strolls around the Seine were sheer bliss for this particular perfume lover. Montale, Guerlain, Le Bon Marché, a hot chocolate at Angelina's, a raclette in the Latin Quarter AND uninterrupted time with Madame Persolaise... what more could I ask for?

Spending far too many of my hard-earned pennies on train tickets to London - Why? Just read this article.

And finally...

Smelling Perfumes - This list wouldn't be complete without a mention of the bottled delights which keep making us poke our heads into the blogosphere day after day. My favourites of the perfumes I finally got around to trying in 2010 are:

Portrait Of A Lady from Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle - a dry, bewitching rose, perfect for both men and women

Une Rose Vermeille from Tauer Perfumes - proof, if more were needed, that a fragrance can be both naughty and innocent

Onda edp from Vero Profumo - an uncompromising, implacable vetivert

Phul-Nana from Grossmith - elegantly composed old-world refinement in a bottle

Al Oudh from L'Artisan Parfumeur - a sweet, curiously feline take on everyone's favourite rotting wood note

Orange Blossom from Gorilla Perfumes - a wonderfully animalic, distinctive floral

Carillon Pour Un Ange from Tauer Perfumes - the murkiest blacks marry the most celestial whites in this bold, unusual composition (please note this won't be on general release until 2011... which means I might be able to include it on next year's list too!)

Hajj from SoOud - with its emphasis on a sugary, sheesha-inspired minty apple, this provides welcome evidence that Arabic-style perfumes can be bright and fresh too

Leather Oud from Christian Dior - stylish and chic, it provides exactly what it promises on the label

Absolue Pour Le Soir from Maison Francis Kurkdjian - provocative, shocking and downright rude... in ever such a good way!

[More detailed reviews of the last three perfumes should appear on within the next few weeks.]

Before I point you in the direction of all the other sites playing our little game today, I'd just like to thank every single person who's taken the time to read this blog since it appeared in March. I'm genuinely grateful for your support and I hope you'll stick around in 2011. Speaking of which, make sure you stop by on New Year's Day for a chance to win a sample of Amouage's new Opus IV.

And now, here are the other participating blogs. Please spare a few moments to visit them, if you haven't already done so. Happy New Year everybody!

Although the blogs below aren't 'officially' taking part in this particular 'Best Of' project, they've published their own lists which are also well worth your time:


Monday, 27 December 2010

Rude, Unhelpful And Snobby. Must Be French...?

This is when I really start to enjoy the Christmas break. The madness of the last two days has faded away, and I can just sit around the house, being lazy and enjoying my presents whilst reaching for the occasional home-made mince pie.

Several people have tried to persuade me to brave the sales, but the last thing I want to do right now is get caught in the middle of clamouring crowds. And besides, I'm quite happy with all the gifts I was fortunate enough to open on Saturday, many of which have already been added to my growing collection of essential oils and aromachemicals. Lots of new scented wonders to explore and evaluate!

The thought of shopping reminds me of my brief Paris getaway with Madame Persolaise. I'd like to write about it in more detail in the weeks to come, but today I think I'll just take a moment to return to the ever-popular topic of Sales Assistants. Essentially, all I want to say is that the service we received in every single shop was nothing short of impeccable. For some odd reason that Madame P and I have never been able to understand, British people are convinced that entering a Parisian department store or cafe entails putting up with a barrage of rudeness and brusque inefficiency. Well, I'm pleased to be able to report that this couldn't have been further from the truth last week. Wherever we went - from Iunx to BHV - we encountered helpfulness, charm and an impressive level of product knowledge. What's more, we also found a great willingness to speak English, which absolutely flew in the face of the old stereotype of the snooty Parisian shop owner pointedly ignoring tourists' cries of "Parlez-vous anglais?"

I've typed this before and I'm quite happy to type it again: shopping is always pleasant in France, especially when compared to the miserable experience it often is in Britain.

Now back to laziness. Where's that brandy butter...?

Oh, just one last thing before I indulge in another calorie-fest. Be sure to return on the 30th for a special inter-blog roundup of the perfume highlights of the past year.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Returning To A Pine-Scented House

Preparations for Christmas are the most important item on the agenda at the moment, so I'm afraid I haven't got any time to spare for writing, but I will just say that I'm back from Paris with a head full of ideas for blog posts and a suitcase full of interesting samples. Actually, I must count how many vials I accumulated: the SAs were being so generous, I stopped keeping track after I reached about forty...

Mind you, the trip didn't get off to an auspicious start. Our drive down from Calais was the stuff of nightmares: I now know what it's like to have a massive DHL truck on your left, a Spanish olive oil truck on your right and a Polish kielbasa truck behind you, with their drivers honking and flashing their lights because they don't consider 60 miles an hour to be a high enough speed at 1 am on a pitch black road that's covered in a thick crust of ice. Not an experience I'd care to repeat.

I'll write more about our escapade in the days and weeks to come, but for now, I'd like to send wishes of peace, joy and happiness to all of you who celebrate Christmas. Enjoy the feasting!


Monday, 20 December 2010

Off To Look For Number 68

You won't hear much from me for a few days, because the snow has cleared - thank goodness! - and I'm off to persuade the SAs at Guerlain, Montale and Lutens to part with some samples. Be good while I'm away, and I promise to tell you all about my adventures when Madame Persolaise and I return.


Sunday, 19 December 2010

A Mirror Up To Nature: Diaghilev At The V&A

We're all aware that, over the years, perfumery has been influenced by other art forms and, indeed, by wider socio-historical developments. Nevertheless, it's always fascinating to see concrete evidence of this flow of ideas, which is precisely why I was thoroughly enthralled by a recent Roja Dove lecture at London's V&A Museum. Using the current Diaghilev exhibition as a springboard, Mr Dove presented a summary of early 20th century perfumery, with a particular focus on how the fiercely avant-garde sensibilities of the Ballet Russes indirectly supported the women's rights movement and, to some extent, the perfume industry's adoption of more abstract, more daring compositions. It was particularly interesting to discover the effects of Paul Poiret's costume designs - which included harem pantaloons and lampshade tunics - on various flacons and advertising imagery.

However - engrossing though all this information was - the real highlight of the evening came when Mr Dove announced that he was about to let the audience smell two classic, discontinued fragrances which he has had especially remade: Guerlain's Coque D'Or and Djedi. Blotters were passed around the lecture theatre amidst a hubbub of excited murmurs from perfume fans. Eventually, two, thin paper strips reached me - I've now got them safely ensconced in a hermetically sealed chamber 30 ft below the basements of Fort Knox - and I took a deep breath. Coque D'Or is an effortlessly elegant, smoky, mossy balsamic; Djedi plays high notes of aldehydes over low beats of the deepest, blackest vetiverts. Both are sleek, rich, beautiful and totally unlike most of the scents released in today's IFRA-fearing climate.

Whilst I sat there, turning my head from one blotter to the next, wondering if we're ever going to combine the force of our indignation in order to reverse the anti-allergen lobby's gradual destruction of our global cultural heritage, I was struck by a question. Developments in perfumery have often been determined by changes in society and technology, but has the reverse ever happened? We say that life sometimes imitates art, but has a perfume ever acted as an agent of real, meaningful change in the world? If we could confidently say that the answer to these questions is Yes, then we may have another argument to use in our attempts to persuade the Powers That Be to stop their senseless erosion of this most emotionally charged of art forms.


[Since writing the above, I've discovered that there's a little bit of confusion about whether Coque D'Or and Djedi really are discontinued. I did a bit of investigating and the final word - received directly from Roja Dove's team - would appear to be that the perfumes are, in fact, no longer available anywhere. The samples used during the lecture came from a batch which Guerlain made especially for Mr Dove.]

Friday, 17 December 2010

Review: Opus IV from Amouage (2010)

The house of Amouage - one of a tiny number of international brands with bona fide Middle Eastern credentials - has often produced dazzling perfumes by taking classical, old-world structures and giving them a Gulf-inspired twist. Jacques Flori's Opus IV continues this admirable tradition. Essentially, it's a sweet, woody citrus with a blistering grapefruit opening (on paper it's actually too astringent, so make sure you try it on skin) and a faintly boozy, timber-edged, cloves-and-raisins conclusion. Some may consider it too reminiscent of a Christmas punch, but I'm convinced that its pièce de résistance - a judicious dose of dusty, sweaty cumin - pushes it firmly in the direction of greatness. Warm, tenacious and slightly raunchy, it's the perfume equivalent of Omar Sharif dressed as Santa Claus, which easily makes it the best of the Library Collection so far. Watch out though: at around £200 per bottle, this isn't exactly the cheapest of stocking fillers.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum obtained in 2010; fragrance tested on skin.]


Amouage have kindly provided a sample of Opus IV to be used as a prize for a give-away here on Please come back in early January to find out how you can get your hands on it.


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Playground Perfume

I think I ought to start charging for perfume shopping consultancy services. The other day, another close relative - a young woman who recently left home to go to Uni - raided my collection in the hope of finding inspiration. "It's time I settled on a signature scent," she said. "But I don't want anything obviously feminine and flowery. And anyway, my friends have already taken all the good florals."

For someone who claims to have been faithful to cheap and cheerful vanilla fragrances for years, she was certainly more than willing to step outside her comfort zone, to the extent that she agreed to try several masculines. "It'd be quite cool to wear a man's perfume," she said, reaching for my bottle of Antaeus.

Less than a quarter of an hour later - clutching vials of the Chanel as well as Comme Des Garçons 2 Man, Timbuktu and Dior Homme Intense - she was quite happy to accept that there is no such thing as a gender-specific smell.

Forget charging for shopping services. Maybe I need to set myself up as a 'fragrance educator' instead. Just think about it: I could travel the length and breadth of the country, popping into primary schools, converting pupils into obsessive little fragrance fanatics. By the time they're 10, I'd have them enjoying oud, castoreum and civet, so that when they're older and ready to wield some buying power, they'll summarily reject every single measly fruity floral on the market and bring about a perfume revolution.

Hmm... I think this is what we call a plan...


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Fougère Royale Winner + A Pre-Christmas Escapade

Thanks to all of you who entered last week's draw. I can now reveal that the destination for my pre-yuletide getaway with Madame Persolaise is

Quite a predictable choice, I know, but never mind: I shall enjoy every second of it... as long as we actually get to go! Apparently, the UK's going to be attacked by more snow storms at the end of the week, which may disrupt our travel plans.

If it isn't volcanoes, it's snowflakes...

Anyway, before I get completely side-tracked and slip into a reverie about the hours I'd love to spend at Guerlain and Lutens, let me proceed to the real business of the day: choosing a winner. I'm pleased to announce that has decided that the recipient of a sample of Fougère Royale is

Anna in Edinburgh

Congratulations, Anna. Please send your postal address to persolaise at gmail dot com and I'll get the sample to you asap.

Those of you who've read the previous post will know that I've already got my hands on the prize for the next draw, which I hope to hold in the first week of the new year. I hope you'll all come back to try your luck again.


Sunday, 12 December 2010

Fougère Royale Give-Away Reminder

Yesterday, Madame Persolaise and I decorated the entire house (with the help of a few hapless elves), so we're now officially in Christmas mode and ready to tuck into mince pies and brandy cream. There are still one or two presents left to buy - and several menus to plan - so today I'll leave you with just a few bits and pieces of news.

First of all, please don't forget that you've only got until 10 pm tonight (UK time) to enter the draw for a sample of the new Fougère Royale.

Secondly, I'm very excited to be able to inform you that one of the most prestigious perfume houses in the world recently provided me with a sample of their latest release specifically so that I can use it as the prize for another draw here on I suspect I won't actually hold the give-away until early January, but I just thought I'd tease you with an enigmatic preview.

And finally, I hope that at some point next week I'll be able to post a few words about a thoroughly enjoyable talk I attended on Friday night at which Roja Dove charted the influence of the Ballet Russes on the perfume industry. Although all his anecdotes and observations were deeply fascinating, the real highlight of the evening was when he gave the audience an opportunity to smell two long-discontinued classics. More details soon...


Friday, 10 December 2010

Review: Portrait Of A Lady from Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle (2010)

Call me a pessimist, but I'm always suspicious of anything to which I take an instant liking. 'It can't really be as wonderful as it seems,' I tell myself. 'Where are the chinks, the flaws, the weaknesses?' More often than not, I succeed in finding them, but then we often see what we're determined to see. However, on some occasions, I do manage to ride the initial wave of euphoria and just allow myself to get carried away into unadulterated enjoyment.

When I first tried Dominique Ropion's Portrait Of A Lady for Malle, I was utterly bowled over. I saw a massive, Middle Eastern rose shimmering before me - not unlike Montale's Black Aoud - and my heart was captured. Since then, I've been trying to poke holes in its petals with my critical daggers, but I'm pleased to say that I have had very little success. Some might find it a touch too linear, but I'd suggest that its subtle, unobtrusive development is a testament to Ropion's brilliance. At first, it does appear to present nothing but rose, rose and more rose, but a closer inspection reveals several other aspects worthy of appreciation, not least a warm cinnamon at the start, a note-perfect, ecclesiastical frankincense in the middle and a smooth, oud-inflected, musky-patchouli woodiness in the base. Others may complain that the drydown goes on for far too long, but this would just be nit-picking. A few people might even raise objections about the irrelevance of the Henry James reference, and they may well have a point, but if you're going to start playing the lit crit game with perfume, then it would be equally easy to read the name as Malle's ironic assertion that the modern Isabel Archer wears an abaya and lives in Abu Dhabi (as has been suggested elsewhere).

Silence the naysayers. Whether you're a man or a woman, try this astonishing new release and let yourself be transported to an empty church in a country where Christianity and Arabic culture happily exist side by side, a place like, say, Lebanon or Syria. The outside world is locked away behind heavy doors. The lights are low. The silence is complete. You sit down and see a polished, brass censer hanging from the ceiling. Emerging from the holes in its lid is a heavy, scarlet smoke, cascading to the ground like endless ribbons of iridescent fabric. Close your eyes and just wait. Before too long, you'll be enveloped by the magic and completely trapped in its heady, floral spell.

[Review based on a sample obtained in 2010; fragrance tested on skin.]


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

When 24 Just Isn't Enough

Regular readers of this blog will know that, every now and then, I'm drawn to the subject of time... or, more specifically, the lack of time. I've been thinking a lot lately about priorities, which has raised questions about the number of hours I spend writing this blog as opposed to fiddling around with my bottles of lotions and potions. Don't panic: I'm not pulling the plug on This blog is an absolutely indispensable part of my personal perfume world. Although it isn't even a year old yet, it's enabled me to come into contact (both real and 'virtual') with all sorts of interesting and generous people from across the globe. Crucially, it's also helped me clarify and sharpen my own views about this endlessly fascinating subject we all love. I think it was E M Forster who once said that it's impossible for us to know our thoughts on a topic until we begin to verbalise them. That's precisely the reason why I keep writing reviews: the discipline of trying to articulate and express my analyses in a succinct, accessible form has done wonders for my abilities to conceive and create my own fragrances.

Having said that, I think the balance is going to have to change ever so slightly in 2011. My main ambition for the coming year is to make a perfume that I can confidently send out into the big bad world. This will almost certainly mean fewer posts.

I expect I'll return to this subject again soon, but for now I ought to remind you about the draw for a sample of Fougère Royale and I should also direct you to my Basenotes article about the fragrance's recent launch in London. Before I put up the sign that says 'Closed For Christmas', I do hope to post at least two more reviews, but if I don't manage it, I'm sure you won't hold it against me. I'd also like to publish a few lines about an event I'm attending at the V & A on Friday at which Roja Dove is going to talk about the creation of his new Diaghilev perfume.

See what I mean about time: there's never enough, is there?


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Fougère Royale Giveaway

Things are starting to get busy again at Maison Persolaise, mostly because of getting ready for Christmas (every year, I forget how long it takes to wrap presents) but also partly because we're breaking with tradition this December and going away for a couple of days before the yuletide festivities begin... which of course entails even more preparation. And where exactly are we going? Well, if I were to say to you that I'm absolutely beside myself with excitement about our mini-escapade, you might be able to guess our destination.

Oh look, is that a light bulb above my head? I think I've just decided on a topic for our latest draw.

Speaking of which... as promised last week, I'd like to give one lucky Persolaise reader a sample of Houbigant's new version of Fougère Royale. For a chance to win, please leave a comment in which you have a guess about where Madame Persolaise and I are going for our little break. Don't worry: I'm not necessarily looking for the correct answer. The winner will be selected at random, so let your imagination run wild. Comments must be left on this post.

Please note: i) the draw will be open until 10 pm (UK time) on Sunday 12th December; ii) the winner will be selected at random and announced on this blog; iii) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter; iv) by entering the draw, you indicate that customs regulations in your country permit you to receive an alcohol-based perfume posted from the UK; v) if the sample is lost in transit, it will not be possible for a replacement to be sent; vi) the address of the winner will not be kept on record, nor will it be passed to any third parties; vii) Persolaise takes no responsibility for the composition of the scent, as regards potential allergens and/or restricted materials.

Good luck,


Sunday, 5 December 2010

Tauer Cologne Du Maghreb Winner + Another Giveaway!

Before I announce the winners of the draw, I just want to thank all of you who entered. I did, of course, read and enjoy every single one of your comments. According to Google, about three-quarters of yesterday's hits on were from first-time visitors: I hope all you newcomers decide to make this a regular stop on your blog wanderings. And I also need to say thanks again to Andy Tauer for providing the prize.

Okay, here we go. The winner of a full bottle of Cologne Du Maghreb is

Cheryl G.

And the winner of a sample of the same cologne (decanted from my own precious supply!) is

Jutta (Safran).

Congratulations to both of you! Please send your postal address to persolaise at gmail dot com; Cheryl, I'll then forward your address to Andy.

Commiserations to everyone else... but don't feel too despondent. Come back here on Tuesday for a chance to win a sample of Houbigant's remake of Fougère Royale.


Friday, 3 December 2010

Tauer Cologne Du Maghreb Giveaway + Christmas 2010 Recommendations

You wouldn't necessarily know it from this blog, but I'm quite fond of lists, so I thought I ought to mark the first weekend of December with a round-up of perfume recommendations for Christmas. Here we go... and don't forget to read all the way to the end for today's very special giveaway:

For 'the males': Tribute from Amouage - Wood. Smoke. Testosterone. Genius. Enough said.

For 'the females': Une Rose Vermeille from Tauer Perfumes - Utterly delicious. A full-bodied, crimson rose on a mouth-watering dessert base.

For those who don't care about the whole business of 'the males' and 'the females': Portrait Of A Lady from Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle - Another rose, this time with an Arabic, incense-laden twist. Pure seduction.

For those who want to pretend it's still summer: Like This from État Libre D'Orange - Fizzing ginger and grinning immortelle. A delightful little triumph.

For those who quite like the fact that it's winter: J'Adore L'Or from Christian Dior - The familiar, gorgeous floral accord placed on a Guerlain-like, vanilla drydown.

For those who aren't afraid of nuclear sillage: Onda extrait from Vero Profumo - A rock-hard vetivert, waiting to be tamed.

For those who insist they don't like florals without realising that what they really, really like is florals: Orange Blossom from Penhaligon's - Bertrand Duchaufour got a lot of attention this year for another Penhaligon's release - Sartorial - but I prefer this gentle take on white petals.

For those who appreciate that sometimes flowers are really, really naughty: Orange Blossom from Gorilla Perfumes - Animalic and ballsy, it sends out one very clear signal: GP will be a brand to watch in 2011.

For 'European' sensuality: Bas De Soie from Serge Lutens - Yes, it is quite green, but it also radiates tender warmth and conjures visions of bodies snuggling up under the sheets.

For 'Middle Eastern' sensuality: Kanz from SoOud - A full review will soon appear on, but for now I'll just say that Stéphane Humbert-Lucas' creation is one of the most convincing Gulf-inspired fragrances I've tried all year. Powerful oud and powerful florals: a winning combination.

For those who like celebrity scents: er... sorry, I think you've come to the wrong blog.

For the ladies' good old days: Nahema from Guerlain - A commercial failure when it was first released, this heavenly, peachy rose now has thousands of admirers and continues to intoxicate with its bold physicality.

For the ladies' even older days: Youth Dew from Estée Lauder - Thank goodness the increasing trend for clinical homogeneity hasn't managed to dampen the spirit of this intense, aldehydic oriental.

For the gents' good old days: Antaeus from Chanel - Instead of reaching for Bleu, remind yourself of this truly wondrous masculine from Jacques Polge where patchouli, beeswax and smokiness combine to create a uniquely masculine effect.

For the gents' even older days: Equipage from Hermès - Winter was made for perfumes like this: fires, cigars and hot spices against a mossy background that spells homely reassurance.

For a very special gesture to a very special someone: Phul-Nana from Grossmith in the Baccarat flacon - Luxurious elegance is evident in every moment of this gem's development, from the neroli opening to the benzoin drydown. And the Baccarat flacon is a feast in itself.

For those who are feeling lucky: keep reading...


I'm very pleased to announce that Andy Tauer has chosen as the 'venue' for one of his advent giveaways this year. The prize is a 50 ml (1.7 fl oz) spray bottle of his brand new Cologne Du Maghreb. At the moment, this cologne cannot be purchased anywhere and is available only to the lucky winners of Andy's advent draws. This is how he describes his latest creation:

I made an all natural, all botanical Eau de cologne, baptized LE COLOGNE DU MAGHREB, especially for this occasion. I use only natural essential oils, absolutes, and resins in it. It is a classical cologne, with a woody baseline chord, a firework of natural citrus notes, exploding into expensive sparkles, on a background with ambreine and cedarwood from the Moroccan High Atlas. Like all colognes it is not made to last but it is a fragrant joy, living in the moment, leaving you with the finest veil of woods on your skin.

Ingredients: Citrus essential oils and absolutes (such as lemon, bergamot, clementine, mandarine, grapefruit, orange blossom absolute, neroli oil), rose absolute and oil, cedarwood, ambrein, cistrose and much more.

To enter this exciting draw, please leave a comment about which perfume you'd most like to receive as a gift. On this occasion, I'm not going to reply to every submission. If you post your entry before the commenting facility is disabled, then you can consider yourself to be in draw.

Please note: i) the draw will be closed before 12 pm (UK time) on Sunday 5th December; ii) the winner will be selected at random and announced on this blog; iii) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter; iv) by entering the draw, you indicate that customs regulations in your country permit you to receive an alcohol-based perfume; v) the winner will have to provide his/her postal address, which will then be passed on to Andy Tauer; vi) the winner's address will not be kept on record by Persolaise, nor will it be passed to any third parties, apart from Andy Tauer.

Good luck... and many thanks to Andy for including this blog in his advent festivities.



UPDATE 4th December 21:00 (UK time) - As the response to the draw has been so fantastic, I've decided to make a special runner-up prize: the second person chosen by will win a small sample of Cologne Du Maghreb. Keep those comments coming!

Mystery Draw Reminder + Quality Control

Making your own blotter strips can be quite a contemplative experience. Last night, whilst the snow steadily covered the skylights at Maison Persolaise and the temperature plunged below 'you can't be serious', I sat down to work with my pads of paper and my mini guillotine. As I ran the blade back and forth across the pages, my mind wandered to the increasingly complicated problem of purchasing raw materials. Until recently, it's been possible for me to make do with pretty small quantities of essential oils and aromachemicals. 10 ml has usually been more than enough; even 5 ml has been adequate in some cases. However, now that things are beginning to get more serious, I need to think ahead and try to identify a few suppliers who a) stock high quality stuff, b) are willing to sell it in amounts that would be substantial to me, but would still be considered tiny by a multi-national perfume chain and c) aren't based so far away from the UK as to make postage (and potential tax) costs prohibitive.

It's a tricky little conundrum with no immediately obvious solution. Anyone who's ever typed 'essential oils' into Google will know that there are many UK-based firms selling all sorts of interesting-sounding potions - including a few CO2 extracts - at reasonable prices. However, their quality is, shall we say, variable... which basically means that it isn't good enough for use on a larger scale. Several highly reputable US companies sell materials in niche-friendly amounts, but buying from them would raise the aforementioned issue of costs. Then there's all the business of trying to buy a suitable solvent. In the UK, mere mortals aren't allowed to purchase ethanol unless they obtain a special licence and can guarantee that they're able to store the stuff safely. If I wanted to apply for such permission, I would have to build a nuclear bunker in my back garden. As far as requirements go, this one isn't unfair - after all, the juice with which we so love to spray our necks and wrists has the potential to cause tremendous destruction - but it is entirely unrealistic and impractical. What to do?

Like I said: there is no obvious answer. But I'll have to give the question more thought, and I expect I'll address it again on this blog before too long.

As we head into the weekend, here's one final reminder about tomorrow's giveaway draw. You'll kick yourself if you miss it!


Thursday, 2 December 2010

Review: Fougère Royale from Houbigant (2010)

How do you make a fougère that has enough fougère-ness to justify the label but not so much that it smells like a disappointing cliche? That's precisely the challenge faced by Houbigant when they decided to resurrect what's often referred to as the original modern perfume: Fougère Royale. Created in the 1880s by Paul Parquet, it was the first fragrance to contain synthetic coumarin. Although the substance exists as a component of several widely-used natural materials - such as hay absolute and tonka beans - Parquet's use of the synthetic version in his composition marked a genuine entry into previously uncharted waters.

Historical achievements notwithstanding, the world has changed a fair bit in the last 130 years: Fougère Royale was discontinued several decades ago, the usage of coumarin is currently restricted and tastes in perfumery are markedly different, especially when it comes to fougères. Precisely because it was so influential all those decades ago, Parquet's accord of bergamot, lavender, geranium, moss and coumarin now spells 'dad's boring after shave' to a whole generation of perfume-lovers anxious to create their own olfactory landscapes by rejecting certain smells favoured by their parents and grandparents. Of course, this doesn't mean that the genre is no longer successful. Far from it: several variations on the original theme have turned out to be some of the most popular masculines of the last few years. In fact, it was only a few weeks ago that Penhaligon's added another chapter to the fougère story with Bertrand Duchaufour's Sartorial. But despite these occasional highlights, the general view is that the fougère is stuck in the past, that it's a scent for the sort of guy who shudders at the thought of wearing a bright silk tie and is sent into paroxysms of agitation when he sees that the shelves at his local supermarket are stocked with moisturisers and anti-wrinkle creams for men.

You'd have thought that Houbigant would've buckled under the weight of all this social pressure and preferred to leave Parquet's creation to the myths of the past, but clearly someone somewhere in their hierarchy thought it would be a good idea to re-make the scent. The question was how. It turns out that the answer was to keep things simple and expensive: get your naturals from Robertet, your synthetics from Givaudan and ensure that the new composition places greater emphasis on the middle section rather than the drydown, which is where dad's boring after shave has the greatest potential to make its unwanted presence known.

The 2010 reformulation of Fougère Royale - presented in an elegantly weighty, Lalique-inspired flacon - serves as a reminder that the genre is essentially designed to be a fresh evocation of the outdoors. Citrus oils - so potent you'd think a lemon was being squeezed right under your nose - instantly send you back to the first sunny weekend of the summer, when you rediscover your short-sleeve shirts and spend Sunday morning reading the papers in the garden. The masterfully blended lavender-rose-geranium heart accord propels you into a memory of an evening in August when you and your loved one went for a long walk through a field and the sun didn't set until 10 o'clock. And yes, when the drydown arrives, the slightly sweaty mossiness does evoke a composite image of all the male authority figures of your childhood and their faded blue shirts, but the tremendous quality of the whole product bypasses many of these negative associations and allows you to re-appreciate the curious, smoky, almondy, hay-like characteristics of coumarin.

It'll be interesting to see how this release performs at the till. A part of me thinks that the careful balance of its blend might turn it into a perfume equivalent of a Jack of all trades, master of none: most people will find it very pleasant, but perhaps few will consider it sufficiently exciting to purchase. This would be a real shame. Although I'm generally not a fougère fan, there are some days when I'm fed up with niche artfulness and I just want to wear something that says 'masculine' in no uncertain terms. Fougère Royale fits the bill very well. It pronounces the word in a manner that is calm, authoritative and cultured without making you think you've been sucked back to the Time That Style Forgot. Despite all the odds, it's a pretty impressive triumph.

[The official press release for Fougère Royale lists Roja Dove and Rodrigo Flores-Roux as its creators; review based on a sample of eau de parfum obtained in 2010; fragrance tested on skin.]


Please note: I had planned to hold a giveaway for a sample of Fougère Royale. However, I decided it would be better to postpone it so that it doesn't interfere with Saturday's very special draw. I'll run it at some point in the week beginning 6th December.]


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Breath Of God Sample Winner + Advance Warning: Mystery Perfume Giveaway

As we start the first day of the final month of the year, I'm pleased to be able to announce that an extremely exciting draw is going to take place right here on this Saturday, 4th December, for one day only. Make sure you come back then for an opportunity to win a very special prize indeed.

Speaking of prizes, thanks to everybody who participated in the Gorilla Perfumes draw. The winner of a sample of Breath Of God is


Congratulations! Please send your address to persolaise at gmail dot com and I'll pop the sample in the post as soon as possible.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Breath Of God Sample Giveaway Reminder + The Delights Of Christmas Shopping

Madame Persolaise and I went Christmas shopping on Saturday. Big mistake. I can't say that our present-hunting was entirely fruitless - when we finally returned home, I grudgingly conceded that we had made one or two interesting purchases - but, boy, was it a struggle! Putting the crowds to one side - if only! - I think what was most depressing was the fact that the shops are really looking rather drab and forlorn. The decorations are lacklustre, the gift sets are the same dead horses that keep getting flogged year after year and the staff make Scrooge look like an advert for happy pills. No wonder we're doing increasing amounts of our shopping on the Internet. Why put up with all the aggravation when you can sit in the warmth of your own home and access a far wider range of goods than you ever could on an average high street? It's a sad state of affairs. I absolutely love wandering around shops, looking for something surprising, getting into conversations with sales assistants... but the attractions of 'real world' shopping are pretty non-existent in today's Britain. If the high street wants to stay alive, it's going to have to think of some clever ways of competing with cyberspace. One solution would be to stop treating customers like a herd of cattle, but then that's precisely the philosophy that goes against the thinking of most national chain stores.

Anyway, speaking of the Internet, don't forget that you've got until 10 pm (UK time) today to enter a draw for a sample of Breath Of God. Please click here for the relevant post.


Sunday, 28 November 2010

Persolaise The Personal Shopper

For the last week or so I've been playing the role of perfume consultant for a very close relative who'd like me to buy him a bottle of something for his birthday. The experience has been great fun, but it's also raised all the familiar issues of subjectivity and the difficulty of finding a shared vocabulary of scent.

I decided pretty much straight away - for several practical reasons - that for this particular birthday boy, I'd focus my attention on État Libre D'Orange. He said he liked the idea of wearing something smoky, so we started with a sample of Jasmin Et Cigarette.

"Urrgh," he immediately exclaimed, "that's got that cat stuff in it!"

It took me less than a moment to realise that his mind had taken him straight back to an evening when he was mildly traumatised by the contents of a bottle in my lab... a bottle containing some synthetic civet.

"That's probably the jasmine you're smelling," I said. "It's quite animalic, which makes it similar to the civet in some ways."

"Yeah, whatever. It stinks!"

I thought we ought to try smokiness of a different sort, so I reached for my vial of Fat Electrician.

"It's... interesting," he said, "but... I don't know... it's sort of spicy... but not in a good way. I don't mind spicy, but not this sort of spicy."

"It's not exactly spicy. What you're smelling is vetivert, which has a smoky, woody, grassy, sweaty feel to it."

"I don't want to smell of sweat!"

"No, no, it doesn't exactly smell of sweat, but it has a sort of sweaty aspect."

"No. It's spicy. And I don't like it. What's next?"

I decided to lighten things up a little with Antihéros.

His response was immediate. "No way! That's horrible. What is that stuff?"

"You tell me. Try to describe it."

"It's horrible."

"It makes you think of old ladies, right?"

"Old ladies? Why?"

"Because it's basically a lavender. And the usual English response to lavender is to say that it smells of old ladies."

"I don't know about old ladies, but I don't like it."

I had to consider my next move carefully: head further into conservative territory or change direction completely? I opted for the former with Je Suis Un Homme.

"Umm... that's not bad," he said, "is it... is it lemony?"

"Yup, well done, it's got a very strong citrus aspect to it. Do you like it?"

"I'm not sure. I don't think so, to be honest. It's a bit... a bit ordinary, maybe?"

"Okay, fine. How about this?" I reached for Secret Weapon #1: Rien.

"Woah, that's good!" He closed his eyes and breathed in for several moments. "That's really spicy. And Arabic! I like that."

"Arabic? Why?"

"I don't know. It just is." The borderlines of his olfactory landscape were becoming increasingly clear: citrus was pleasant but boring; strong florals were stinky; smoky woods were spicy in the wrong way; but leathery spices got the green light because his memories of growing up in the Middle East made him read them as exotic and exciting.

"Okay," I said, "so if you like that one, how about this?" I handed him Secret Weapon #2: Tom Of Finland.

"Wow! That's excellent! That's even more Arabic. It's... really spicy."

"And woody?" I wondered if he'd detect the saffron-sandalwood accord.

"I don't know. It's just... Arabic, I guess. I don't know if it's woody. What does woody mean, anyway?"

I tried to explain, but in the end we decided it would be easier if I just gave him all the samples so that he could wear them to work and 'live with them' for a while.

After a few days he decided that although Rien was his favourite, he wouldn't be able to wear it very often because all his colleagues had found it too overpowering. Despite my attempts to persuade him to stick to his guns, he decided to go for what he saw as the safer - but still suitably 'Arabic' - option: Tom Of Finland.

Mission accomplished.

To conclude, I should reveal that he still doesn't know the real names of any of the perfumes he was trying: I presented them to him anonymously in order to prevent any influence caused by images of white petals, obese maintenance men etc. So when he opens his present next week and sees the packaging in all its glory, I wonder whether he'll still find it Arabic... or woody?


Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Logic Behind Breath Of God

Here's a fascinating little follow-up to yesterday's Gorilla Perfumes reviews.

I was contacted by a representative of Lush who'd read my post and wanted to explain that the name Breath Of God was inspired by Simon Constantine's visit to Tibet. Apparently Mr Constantine discovered that the smoke produced by the incense in Tibetan temples contains certain pheromones which can also be found in human breath. When you couple this with the fact that Breath Of God is essentially a combination of two other perfumes - Inhale and Exhale - then the picture becomes quite clear:

If incense = breath
and church = house of god
then incense in church = breath of god

How absurdly simple, as Dr Watson would say.

You can hear the Constantines tell the story in their own words by clicking here.


Friday, 26 November 2010

Sample Giveaway + Review: Breath Of God & The Smell Of Weather Turning by Gorilla Perfumes (2010)

There isn't much that hasn't been said about Breath Of God... except perhaps that it's back! After receiving a five-star review from Tania Sanchez, it proceeded to evoke perplexed confusion from many who tried it, before being flung onto the great 'Discontinued' pile in the sky by the demise of BNTBTBB. It has now returned as part of the Gorilla Perfumes range and looks set to wield its weirdness for a good while to come.

There is no question that it's an odd cocktail, although that is by no means a criticism. After belching out a not-entirely pleasant oyster-like, oceanic fog (Mark and Simon Constantine clearly don't think our Lord is immune to the odd bout of halitosis) it tries to assuage your sense of alarm with an eye-opening burst of minty citrus and a waft of green vetivert. It's clean, yet tenacious; cheerful, yet uncompromising; distinctive, but also highly changeable. There are times when its outer edges are a touch too acrid, but more often than not it manages to keep the wearer gripped with its endless shifts from white smokiness to sun-caressed vineyard freshness. And although its name may seem comically pretentious, it actually ties in very well with the perfume's attempt to bottle a series of fantastical 'divine exhalations'.

Mintiness also features prominently in The Smell Of Weather Turning, although here, it's much stronger and thus serves to highlight what one might call a questionable aspect of the composition. As a note, it's notoriously tricky for the perfumer to work with, partly because it evokes instant associations with bath products (see Parfumerie Generale's Harmatan Noir) and partly because its pervasive, scene-stealing brightness sets dangerously high expectations. TSOWT avoids the first trap completely. There is no way this juice could be mistaken for a bottle of Tesco's budget shower gel, a feat achieved by modifying the mentholated vigour with one of the most bizarre - and compelling - top accords I've encountered all year. Sage, tomatoes, twigs and moist compost all combine to create a visceral sense of the outdoors, a hyper-real portrait of a landscape where the lighting brings out every fertile detail.

However, the sheer originality of this opening means that Mint Trap # 2 is even harder to avoid. After a sense of calm descends, you realise you're left with a familiar coumarin-like base, which would probably have been fine in a different context, but here seems like a bit of a let down: the last thing you expect - or, indeed, want - after the brain-churning kookiness of the opening is a hint of dad's after shave, no matter how fleeting. Having said that, the first few minutes alone are worth the price of a small bottle of this stuff and act as a useful reminder that Gorilla Perfumes is one of very few brands currently willing to stick its hairy neck on the line and make a virtue of strangeness and eccentricity.

[Reviews based on samples obtained in 2010; fragrances tested on skin; to read reviews of two more Gorilla Perfumes, please click here.]


I'm very pleased to be able to offer one lucky reader of a sample of Breath Of God. If you'd like to enter the draw, please leave a comment which begins with the following words: "One of the strangest perfumes I've ever tried is..." Comments must be left on this post.

Please note: i) the draw will be open until 10 pm (UK time) on Tuesday 30th November; ii) the winner will be selected at random and announced on this blog; iii) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter; iv) by entering the draw, you indicate that customs regulations in your country permit you to receive an alcohol-based perfume posted from the UK; v) if the sample is lost in transit, it will not be possible for a replacement to be sent; vi) the address of the winner will not be kept on record, nor will it be passed to any third parties; vii) Persolaise takes no responsibility for the composition of the scent, as regards potential allergens and/or restricted materials.

Good luck!


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Still In India...

All this talk of Arctic winds makes me feel like sticking to the Indian theme I started yesterday.

Visiting the perfume shops on Muhammed Ali Road is probably similar to what it was like to step inside a British perfumery circa 1960. For a start, there are counters behind which the customer must not set foot. UK shops have almost completely lost the notion of a counter: the strategy is now to allow each potential buyer direct access to whatever he or she wishes to touch. Or perhaps the change was partly sparked by British employees' increasing - and misguided - loathing of being in a position of servitude: if you take the counters away, SAs don't feel their customers are superior to them. Personally, I've always thought that giving someone your time and knowledge has the potential to be a fairly noble activity, but I guess many employees working in the gloriously class-obsessed context of the UK don't see the situation quite like I do. Still, I digress.

Muhammed Ali Road perfumeries most certainly feature counters, as well as rows of oversized, 80s-inspired, comfortable chairs and an endless supply of small bottles of mineral water to fight the effects of the monsoon heat. Lining the walls are floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets inside which are displayed the star attractions: the perfumes themselves. Most of them are stored in heavy, whisky decanter-style crystal bottles which catch and reflect the lights beaming down from the ceiling.

After you're greeted and asked to take a seat, the first question that's aimed at you is, "What type of perfume do you like?"

You're generally expected to give one of three possible answers: European, Indian or Arabic. The latter are almost always the heaviest concoctions: dark, resinous liquids that reek of oud and powerful, diffusive floral notes. The so-called Indian perfumes are perhaps a touch lighter, opting for friendlier, cleaner ingredients. The European ones are probably aimed squarely at the tourist market. Essentially clones of familiar names like Cool Water, Eternity and J'Adore, they're all worth trying for a laugh, but the majority resemble their namesakes only for about two minutes.

When you point at a particular scent you'd like to try, it's lifted off its shelf and brought over to where you're sitting. The sales assistant twists and pulls the stopper, allowing any excess drops to fall back into the bottle. He then hands the crystal bauble to you and steps back. After a few moments, you smile as a familiar line reaches your ears: "It's better if you try it on your skin."

"You're absolutely right," you say, "but I think I'd better just smell it like this first."

And then, before you know it, you find you've spent ages trying perfume after perfume and enjoying a lengthy conversation with the assistant, who turns out to be the owner's grandson and is learning the trade, so that he can take over the business one day. You don't feel for one moment as though you're being pressured into buying a single item, which is why you invariably decide to ask for a small bottle of something. With an iron-steady hand, the assistant - who now feels much more like a guide or a host - pours your selection from the massive whisky decanter into a small, daintily decorated flacon which then gets tucked away inside a velvet box. You shake his hand, take one last sniff of the incredible sandalwood-infused incense he waves in your direction and you step back into the crowds.

The next time I walk into a John Lewis or Debenhams and get attacked by the pointy end of a blotter, I think I'll just close my eyes for a moment and remember all of the above.


Monday, 22 November 2010

Thinking Of India + Grossmith Sample Set Winner

Now that the weather's getting colder, my mind seems to keep getting drawn back to thoughts of the summer in Mumbai: raucous rain, sweltering heat and, of course, the perfumers of Muhammed Ali Road. With their soft-spoken geniality, they seem a galaxy away from the cybernetically-smiling, bottle-wielding battle clones of Boots and Debenhams, itching to jump on you with a spray of the latest 'pour hhhhhommme'. Maybe someone should open a niche store in the UK based on the 'Indian model': lots of comfortable chairs, plenty of uncluttered surfaces for blotters, books, pens etc, and sales assistant who understand that the amount of time and space they give their customers is directly proportional to the likelihood of making a sale. Wishful thinking...

But let's not start the week on a miserable note. How about putting a smile on someone's face?

Thanks very much indeed to everyone who entered last week's draw for the sample set from Grossmith. I'm pleased to announce that the winner is:


Congratulations! Please send your postal address as soon as possible to persolaise at gmail dot com so that I can get the samples off to you.


Sunday, 21 November 2010

SoOud London Launch + Giveaway Reminder

Please click here to be redirected to my Basenotes article about the launch of a brand new range of perfume in London... and here for a chance to win a set of three Grossmith samples.


Friday, 19 November 2010

Preview: Portrait Of A Lady by Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle (2010) + Sample Giveaway Reminder

Whilst I'm in preview mode, I ought to mention that a recent visit to the ever-enchanting Les Senteurs led to a sniff of Frederic Malle's new Portrait Of A Lady, composed by Dominique Ropion. I shall attempt to restrain my excitement until I'm in a position to offer a more thoughtfully constructed appraisal, but I'd be lying by omission if I didn't reveal that I was completely smitten. It's the kind of rose I haven't experienced for ages: peppery, incense-laden and deeply crimson, it seduced me in one fell swoop, just like Guerlain's Nahema. I'm not convinced by the Henry James reference - the scent feels more Middle Eastern than European - by one thing I do know is that I will be waiting with bated breath for a sample.


Please don't forget that you've still got a bit of time to enter the giveaway for a set of three Grossmith samples. Have a great weekend!


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Preview: Opus IV by Amouage (2010)

Popping into Amouage's London boutique is always a pleasure, but the experience is made even more special when there's an opportunity to try a brand new scent. The other day, it was Opus IV, the latest addition to the Library Collection, due to be released at the very beginning of December. I must stress that a brief 'first impressions' write-up shouldn't be seen as a replacement for a thorough review, but having tested the fragrance on paper and worn it on myself for a whole evening, I feel I'm in a position to inform you about the rough direction in which it aims its scented arrows.

Essentially, it starts off as a tart citrus - with a pretty daring dose of grapefruit - before heading off to spice country and settling down to a cumin-tinged, sweaty wood note. What this means, of course, is that it's rather different from the first three Opus releases and doesn't immediately display their pellucid quality. The first points of comparison it called to my mind were Dior's underrated Fahrenheit Absolute and Parfumerie Générale's Cedre Sandaraque. In other words, it's a serious release that will be worthy of equally serious attention when it becomes more readily available. Fingers crossed, I'll be able to provide a detailed assessment here on

My thanks, as ever, to Simon and Vanessa at the boutique for their helpfulness.


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Jasmine Cheesecake

Allow me to acknowledge a positive: this weekend, I got a chance to improve my jasmine accord. It's coming along well; I wish I could say the same about my impatience. I'm working very hard at the moment to convince myself that there's nothing to be gained by trying to move things too quickly. The accord will be ready when it's ready, at which point it'll be time to move on to the next piece of this particular perfume puzzle. For the moment, I just need to focus on preserving the familiar aroma of jasmine absolute whilst placing it against a famine-dry background. Fingers crossed, I'll be able to write more about this in the weeks to come.

Another of the weekend's highlights was an opportunity to make a lime cheesecake on a vanilla shortbread base. Sometimes, cooking is so much more satisfying than perfumery: you throw some ingredients together and within a couple of hours, you've got a mouthwatering treat. I wonder if my jasmine accord would benefit from a few drops of Carnation condensed milk...


Monday, 15 November 2010

Sample Giveaway + Review: Phul-Nana by Grossmith (1891/2009)

I confess I wasn't aware of Grossmith until the firm's recent relaunch. Originally established in 1835, it fell on hard times and was dissolved in the mid-80s, only to be revived last year by Simon Brooke, the great-great grandson of founder John Grossmith. The house has now reissued three classic scents and succeeded in reinventing itself as a major player on the luxury niche scene.

The most enchanting of the new trio is without doubt Phul-Nana (1891/2009), an exquisite study in old-world refinement. With a trajectory that is a joy to behold, it starts with neroli (edgy-sweet citrus), which then attaches itself to geranium (edgy-sweet floral) before linking up to benzoin (edgy-sweet resin). Enriching the background is a wondrous mix of sandalwood, cedar and tonka bean which lends the whole an air of delectable hauteur. Wear it, hold your head high and walk through the world with the certainty that you're as perfectly proportioned as the Discobolus.

Although Hasu-No-Hana (1888/2009) is far better than half the stuff you'd find on an average high street, it does suffer from being too similar to Phul-Nana. Its opening places a stronger emphasis on bitter orange and its heart is more floral, but as it reaches its drydown, you begin to realise that it's trying - and failing - to compete with its more confident cousin. On the other hand, Shem-El-Nessim (1906/2009) has something different to say and manages to impress with its sophisticated cocktail of parched orris and smooth vanilla.

Regrettably - but unsurprisingly - it hasn't been possible for me to compare these re-releases with their Victorian/Edwardian originals, so I'm in no position to comment on their 'historical accuracy'. What I can say is that they evoke the past - is a certain type of sugared powderiness becoming our generation's signifier of bygone years? - whilst remaining wearable in a modern context, and that they certainly whet one's appetite for any other formulae Mr Brooke may be hiding in his family vault.

[Review based on samples of eau de parfum obtained in 2010; fragrances tested on skin.]


I'm very pleased to be able to offer one lucky reader of a special set containing samples of each of the three perfumes; the set has been generously provided by Grossmith. If you'd like to enter the draw, please leave a comment which begins with the following words: "One of the most elegant perfumes ever made is..." Comments must be left on this post.

Please note: i) the draw will be open until 10 pm (UK time) on Sunday 21st November; ii) the winner will be selected at random and announced on this blog; iii) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter; iv) by entering the draw, you indicate that customs regulations in your country permit you to receive an alcohol-based perfume posted from the UK; v) if the samples are lost in transit, it will not be possible for a replacement to be sent; vi) the address of the winner will not be kept on record, nor will it be passed to any third parties; vii) Persolaise takes no responsibility for the composition of the scent, as regards potential allergens and/or restricted materials.

Good luck!


THE DRAW IS NOW CLOSED. Please click here to find out who has won.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Denyse Beaulieu - Exclusive Interview

Please click here for my exclusive Basenotes interview with Denyse Beaulieu, author of the bilingual blog, Grain De Musc. You might also like to click here to read the interesting discussion that the article has generated on Denyse's blog. And be sure to come back to on Monday for details of another special giveaway.

I hope you're having a wonderful weekend so far,


Friday, 12 November 2010

Pyramid Building - 4... Conclusion?

To round off my brief examination of the question of top, heart and base notes, I'm tempted to break copyright rules. You see, on page 481 of An Introduction To Perfumery (2nd edition) by Tony Curtis and David G Williams there's a simple diagram which is probably the best depiction I've seen of what happens when you release a perfume from its bottle. However, on this occasion, I think I'll stay on the right side of the law and I'll do my best to describe the picture verbally.

Essentially, it consists of the same sort of triangle that's normally used for olfactory pyramids. But instead of being divided into 3, straight-edged sections, it contains curved lines which split the shape into flowing segments that invade each other's territory. (Think: yin/yang circle.)

The idea behind the picture is that it is almost impossible to isolate the top, heart and base from each other; it's the relationship between the three - their constant inter-mingling - which is what matters. And that is probably as good a final word as we'll ever have on the subject.

To conclude, I'm going to attempt my own pseudo-diagramatic respresentation of the workings of a perfume. I'm sure you won't need me to tell you that 'T' stands for top notes, 'H' for heart and 'B' for base. The size and case of the letters gives an indication of odour strength. The dots are supposed to give an idea of the increasing gap of time between each stage of development. So here it is, my own little 'evaporation curve' shape poem:



Review: Opus III from The Library Collection by Amouage (2010)

If there's one characteristic that Amouage's first three Library Collection scents have in common, it is a gauzy sheerness. Opus I conjures an image of florals preserved in a delicate Japanese jelly. Opus II - perhaps the least successful of the trio - places its iftar-meets-fougère construction behind a pane of stained glass. But it's Opus III that opts for the most appropriate and, arguably, the most sophisticated veil: a thin sheet of fine parchment.

Although iris and heliotrope aren't on its official list of notes, Opus III's defining feature is the dry transparency one usually associates with those two materials (think: Après L'Ondée). They're lifted at the start by a light dose of peppery spices, whereas the presence of ylang ylang in the heart prevents them from becoming too gaunt. There is perhaps a little too much lychee sweetness at the beginning and the drydown may be wishy-washy, but the central achievement remains intact: spray some on your skin, close your eyes and imagine yourself looking through a piece of onionskin paper at a charming composition of pressed flowers. Future Opus releases would do well to follow the lead set by this elegant creation.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum obtained in 2010; fragrance tested on skin.]


Thursday, 11 November 2010

I Owe Andy An Apology

For the last few days, a mysterious smell has been bugging me in my study. Most of the time, it's been totally undetectable, but every now and then, as I've been sitting at my PC, it's popped up, flitted around for less than a second and vanished. Essentially, it was floral: gentle, thin and strongly reminiscent of lily of the valley. Each time it wafted under my nose, I sent quiet curses in the direction of Zurich. 'It must be Carillon Pour Un Ange,' I thought to myself, 'I probably sprayed some on my carpet by accident, and now it's going to haunt me for weeks.' As has already been written elsewhere, most of Andy Tauer's perfumes possess the extraordinary ability to last through rain storms, workouts, baths and vigorous encounters with Fairy liquid. I suspect that centuries from now, when we're all gone and the globe is recovering from an apocalyptic nuclear disaster, a small corner of Switzerland will still be radiating Orange Star. I keep asking Andy how he achieves this tenacity, and he says it's down to skillful blending, but I reckon he sold his soul to the devil in return for the secret of Eternal Scent. But I digress...

Although I adore Carillon, I don't want it to invade my space unbidden, so these occasional bursts of lily were starting to become irritating.

Anyway, yesterday, a pencil rolled off my desk and fell onto the floor. I got down on all fours and began hunting for it amongst the maze of electrical cables, folders and stacks of paper. As I ventured deeper into this forest of paraphernalia, the smell reappeared. 'What the hell is going on?' I thought. 'There's no way I could've sprayed anything down here!' A few moments later, I found the culprit: a narrow strip of paper with a word jotted at one end. Lyral.

Gritting my teeth, I picked it up, threw it in the bin and have been lily-free ever since. But I feel ashamed to think that all this time I'd been blaming Mr Tauer's divine angel. Can anyone suggest a suitable punishment for me? Throwing me into a vat of Sécrétions Magnifiques, perhaps?


PS I'll bet the real irony of this story is that Carillon doesn't even contain Lyral...

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Penhaligon's In Cambridge

Putting London aside for a moment, perfume shopping in Britain can be a disheartening experience: sales assistants are often clueless and the stock itself uninspiring. However, there are a few places out there that are well worth visiting, places like Penhaligon's on St Andrew's Street in Cambridge.

Whatever you may think of the fragrances they sell, the staff are welcoming, patient, extremely well-informed and always willing to engage in a genuine discussion of their products. There's a fine line between giving the customer enough space to browse at his or her own pace and ignoring them to the extent that they feel completely unwanted. The people at this particular branch of one of Britain's oldest perfumery houses know just how to achieve this balance. I pop in and say Hello on each and every one of my trips to Cambridge and I have yet to walk out without a huge smile on my face and a few enticing samples in my pocket. Make sure you stop by next time you're in the area.


Monday, 8 November 2010

Give People Credit

Here's a conversation between a couple overheard in Boots the other day:

She: [sprays a scent onto a strip] What about this one?

He: [sniffs] Umm... don't know... too sweet, maybe?

She: Yeah, you're probably right. [sprays another bottle] And this one?

He: Weeell... I don't know, I think I just want something... you know, a bit fresher.

She: Okay, what about this one?

He: Oh, I quite like that. Yeah, that's good. [sniffs deeply] Yeah, that's definitely got potential. Let's have the bottle. [sprays some more on the back of his hand]

She: And you reckon half an hour will be enough?

He: Oh, yeah, definitely, that'll be plenty. Usually, if my skin's going to react badly to something, it only takes about ten minutes, so half an hour should be more than enough.

And with that they walked away to another section of the shop, but it was all I could do to stop myself from running after them, throwing myself at their feet and pleading, "Please could you write to your MEP and tell him or her that even though you sometimes have allergic reactions to perfumes, you don't actually mind trying them on your skin for yourself and making an informed, indivudal decision about whether you're going to purchase them." I didn't do that, of course. This is England, after all.

Oh, and by the way, in case you're interested, the fragrance which grabbed the gentleman's attention was the original Hugo by Hugo Boss.


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Blood And Other Bodily Fluids? You Smell Wonderful, Dahling!

The other day, the unthinkable happened. I was at a perfume shop, chatting with a sales assistant who at one point asked me to smell the wrist of her male colleague. I walked over to him, took a few sniffs and jerked my head back in surprise.

"What?" I said, "but... it can't be!"

"It is," she said.

I smelled again, utterly unable to comprehend why the pit of my stomach wasn't threatening to turn itself inside out with revulsion. "Is it really?" I asked.

"Yes. Sécrétions Magnifiques."

"No way!" I smelled again, and sure enough, that instantly recognisable metallic wrongness was easy to discern, but it was backed by a light, gentle floral note that somehow made the whole thing perfectly pleasant. I looked up at the wrist's owner. "Well done! I didn't think anyone would ever be able to pull that off. But it really works on you."

"Thank you," he said, smiling. "I like it too."

So there you go: don't ever let anyone tell you that individual body chemistry is irrelevant!



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