Friday, 25 November 2011

Bottega Veneta from Bottega Veneta, Esprit d'Oscar from Oscar De La Renta & 1697 from Frapin (2011)

[Reviews based on samples of eau de parfum obtained in 2011*; fragrances tested on skin.]

The first perfume for Bottega Veneta has been made by Michel Almairac. The 2003 version of Gucci Pour Homme was also made by Michel Almairac. As far as I'm concerned, this is reason enough to take the Bottega scent very seriously indeed. His masculine for Gucci remains one of the most refined takes on incense, cedar and amber I have ever encountered. Distinctive and sophisticated, it exudes all the qualities one would hope to find in a brand synonymous with luxury. With BV's eponymous fragrance, he's pulled off a similar trick, albeit in a quieter manner.

Essentially, the scent is a modern chypre which, if recent trends are anything to go by, is another way of saying it contains a strong patchouli note. Some would consider this sufficient reason to give it a sniff, and there's nothing wrong with that, but Almairac's composition is complex enough to cause fragrance taxonomists to scratch their heads with pleasure longer than most mainstream releases do. He's balanced the earthiness of his star ingredient with peppery top notes which serve to deflect any accusations of fustiness. He's introduced the obligatory leather accord by way of a genuinely surprising camphoraceous edge (juniper berry? eucalyptus?) redolent of twilit groves atop some Italian mountain. And he's achieved a fruity-floral inflection with a suggestion of plums and red berries (forests again?) as well as hints of rose and jasmine. The effect is restrained, elegant and regal. Perfectly suited to the firm's trademark intrecciato technique - which itself reflects a part-conservative, part-forward-thinking aesthetic - it is a commendable debut scent and a welcome addition to the high street. In fact, I dare say the UK’s high street isn’t quite sophisticated enough for it, but never mind: spray it, put on your most understated black sunglasses and go about your daily business in the hope that everyone else will rise up to your chic standards.

Speaking of elegant perfumes, at this point, I am minded to play ‘catch up’ and mention a couple of equally admirable releases from earlier this year. Frank Voelkl and Ann Gottlieb's Esprit d’Oscar is that most joy-inducing of things: a modern vintage scent. It's basically structured around a familiar aldehydic floral idea (ylang ylang, jasmine, orange blossom etc over powdery, vanillic base) which is made distinctive by what I can only describe as a non-marine salty note. Perhaps it's the result of some happy combination of citrus and woody materials. Perhaps it has been created by the particular type of vetivert that’s been used. Whatever the cause, it pulls the scent into modernity and lends it considerable weight. “Could this be L’Heure Bleue’s cooler, younger sister?” I wrote in my notebook. I’d urge you to try to find out for yourself.

Bertrand Duchaufour’s 1697 for Frapin provides yet another example of his ability to create olfactory mirages so vivid, the word ‘uncanny’ doesn’t even begin to do them justice. On this occasion, he’s recreated the moment when you first bite into a barrel-shaped, brandy-filled chocolate. The sugar, the cocoa, the creaminess, the woods, the sharpness of the alcohol, the cloves, the vanilla... they’re all there, taunting your salivary glands. Then you’re presented with flambeed fruit: plums, grapes, cherries, raisins. And finally a clean, green fig note lifts the whole and adds luminescence. A decadent, boozy pudding of a perfume, reminiscent of Mathilde Laurent’s Attrape-Coeur for Guerlain. It becomes a touch shrill towards the latter stages of its development, but it’s well worth hunting down.

* With thanks to The Candy Perfume Boy

[For more reviews of these perfumes, please visit Eyeliner On A Cat, Bois De Jasmin and Now Smell This. And for an interesting post about the creation of the Bottega Veneta, please head on over to Grain De Musc.]



  1. 1697 sounds delicious! I'm looking forward to trying it.

    Gucci pour Homme 2003 is my favorite "for men" aimed perfume. My husband own a bottle and sometimes I like wearing it too.
    I think GPH 2003 doesn't received the love it deserves. It's a jewel but not many people seem to notice.

    I tried Bottega Veneta some weeks ago and I found it quite nice, but not memorable. I'll have to try it again.

  2. Sorry for the mistakes! English is not my native language and sometimes I write too fast :P

  3. Ha! I think I wrote something very similar in my review of Esprit d'Oscar, about it being a sibling of L'Heure Bleue. It's gratifying to see that you agree. I really, really love it.

  4. Isa, I love the Gucci too... but not as much as my wife loves it on me!

    And don't worry about errors. Just type away to your heart's content.

  5. Carrie, you also expressed a similar sentiment in the beautiful guest post you wrote for me earlier this year. I wonder if anyone else sees the same connection we do between the two scents.


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