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.



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