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 Persolaise.com 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 Persolaise.com

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 Persolaise.com 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 Persolaise.com 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!


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Review: Carillon Pour Un Ange by Tauer Perfumes (2010)

A few weeks ago, Madame Persolaise and I were on an escalator, descending into London's Tube network. She was wearing vintage Diorissimo; I'd dabbed my wrists with a few drops of an oud oil I'd picked up in India. As we sank deeper inside the city, a draught of air rushed past us, blowing through our hair and clothes. And in that instant, something rather magical happened. The incomparable lily of the valley of Monsieur Roudnitska's masterpiece mingled with the feral snarl of my oud and created an entirely new scent around us: an odd, unearthly mix that glowed over our heads like an incandescent halo.

The essence of that moment has been captured by Andy Tauer in Carillon Pour Un Ange, easily the most unusual of the four scents he's released this year. I say 'unusual' because it's the type of perfume that causes reviewers to stare at their keyboards in frustration and resort to maddening phrases like 'almost, but not quite' and 'just about, possibly, maybe, but I'm not entirely sure'. In other words, it's an enigma. Yes, its heart is based around a green lily of the valley accord, but it doesn't try for a single moment to provide a straightforward impersonation of the flower: with a diffusiveness and a tenacity that are nothing short of astonishing (spray a tiny bit on paper and you'll see what I mean) it creates a strange, otherworldly evocation of the tiny white blossoms, boldly pushing the scent to a grassy, pea-like extreme at which it almost becomes too synthetic. Almost, but not quite.

Underneath this floral shimmer is a dark base that could perhaps be summed up by the word 'leather', but again, that wouldn't come close to conveying the fullness of its complexity. Mossy, earthy and metallic, its foundation conjures an intensely physical shade of brown, a landscape covered in unrecognisable textures that seem organic, but could possibly be entirely man-made. Possibly, but I'm not entirely sure.

Carillon's intangible unknowability suddenly makes sense when you consider that, in the early stages of its development, it was called Gabriel. Like the vision that appeared before Mary, it is recognisable, yet utterly alien; it projects a sense of protective safety, whilst remaining frightening; it is divinely beautiful but also, in some ways, divinely unapproachable. And like Biblical angels, it dispenses with human notions of sexuality and presents its own celestial sensuousness. Indeed, it's one of very few 'unisex' fragrances for which the term seems reductive: the way it operates requires a far more provocative label, something like 'duosex,' perhaps.

Like all challenging scents, it's bound to divide opinion. But if you consider yourself to be a fan of perfumes that are out of the ordinary and you wish to be transported to a setting that's as concrete as it is illusory, you cannot afford to turn deaf ears on this particular peal of heavenly bells.

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


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Perfume Scene In Britain

I realise I'm running the risk of turning this blog into a daily whine, but I'm afraid I still feel like letting off a bit of steam about the scarcity of time. Yesterday, a great deal of this most precious of commodities was spent waiting to speak to a representative of Domestic & General, but the less said about that unpleasant encounter, the better.

I should be able to upload at least one review before the end of the week, and hopefully it'll be on Tauer's Carillon Pour Un Ange. Whilst you're waiting for my take on Andy's fourth release of 2010 (!), perhaps those of you who have some knowledge of the UK would care to take a moment to answer a question, either by leaving a comment or sending an email to persolaise at gmail dot com:

Do you think the perfume scene in Britain has improved over the course of the last few years? In terms of the availability of fragrances and the general public's understanding of scent-related matters, do you think things are better now than they were, say, five or six years ago?

In case you're wondering, the reason why I'm asking is because I'd like your help with crystallising my own views on the subject, in the hope of turning them into a future blog post.

Thanks very much,


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Sub-Zero Please

Following on from yesterday's post, I would just like to say that an Arctic blast across Old Father Time's beard would be very welcome right now. Did we really gain a whole extra hour this weekend?!? It certainly doesn't feel like it.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that a few spare minutes will present themselves before too long, not least because I've got reviews of at least 8 fragrances that are waiting for finishing touches before I click the 'Publish Post' button... and there's a set of three samples waiting to be given away.

Sadly, the rest of this week is shaping up to be fairly busy, not least because I'll be away from home again for a couple of days. But I'm looking forward to Friday evening as I'll be conducting an exclusive interview with one of the blogosphere's favourite perfume writers. Keep checking back for more details.



Monday, 1 November 2010

Where Did I Leave My TARDIS?

Here's at least one thing for which I was grateful this weekend: I got to spend an hour on formulating. And as I cleaned my pipettes with alcohol, I was struck by the thought that one of the reasons why creating a fragrance can often be a frustrating business is because the perfumer would like to be able to freeze time whilst simultaneously making it flow at five times the normal speed.

The former would be great so that I could just spend hours fiddling around with different accords - seeing what works and what doesn't - without worrying about the prosaic reality that's constantly baying at my door. The latter would be handy so that I could try a new creation and find out immediately what it's like, instead of waiting for its entire development to play out on my skin.

All of this is idle thinking, of course. The clock will keep ticking, one second at a time, and I'll keep trying to find a few spare moments to make my jasmine accord obey my increasingly complex demands.



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