Friday, 2 December 2011

Paris-London from Guerlain & Apuldre from Molton Brown (2011)

[Review of Paris-London based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Guerlain in 2011; review of Apuldre based on a sample of eau de parfum obtained in 2011; fragrances tested on skin.]

Geographical locations are obvious sources of inspiration for fragrances because, unlike films, novels, photographs and sculptures, they come ready-made with their own smells. Of course, these odours are usually free to be experienced and absorbed by anybody, which means that the perfumer has to work doubly hard to convince the wearer that his or her formula is a faithful representation of the place in question. Perhaps this explains why so many space-specific fragrances are disappointing: they set themselves a near-impossible task and end up presenting what feels like a tourist’s point-of-view, as opposed to a local’s inside knowledge.

Guerlain’s Voyages Olfactifs series isn’t an especially popular sub-set of the firm’s extensive catalogue, but it recently grew with the addition of Thierry Wasser’s Paris-London. I confess that, at first, I saw it as little more than an unremarkable, transparent floral, but I’m pleased to say that repeated wearings yielded some rewards. Within its very diffusive, very translucent structure, it presents an image of a genteel picnic on a summer day. There’s a cucumber note, possibly achieved by a combination of lavender and methyl ionone. The latter, as is well known, suggests violets and, with the help of bergamot, also introduces a tea facet, which extends the picnic imagery (and, incidentally, echoes Paris-Tokyo). Orange peel stands in for Pimm’s. And a twist comes in the form of a tart, rhubarb-like note which prevents the overall effect from becoming twee. It’s nowhere near masterpiece territory - the individual notes aren’t sufficiently distinct and the drydown is overly synthetic - but it isn’t as inconsequential as an initial impression might suggest. If nothing else, it’s worth trying just to see how Wasser perceives England’s capital; I daresay few people would say his vision chimes with their experience of the city.

On the other hand, Jennifer Jambon’s Apuldre makes a more convincing case for location-bound scents. Part of a new range of perfumes from Molton Brown, it takes its name from the original, Saxon monicker of the village of Appledore in Kent. And it just so happens to be one of the most enjoyable Ye Olde English pub re-creations I’ve tried for a long time. It’s got a burning fire (think: lots of dry cedar). It’s got the bitter, almost tangy scent of yeast and hops. It’s got a pre-smoking ban whiff of tobacco. It’s even got a juniper berry note to suggest a glass of gin (or perhaps the freshness of the trees outside the Tudor window). But its trump card is violet leaf absolute, an intensely green material that almost never fails to add lightness and transparency. It helps this particular composition avoid mustiness, and although it can’t quite stop the final stages from being thin and soapy, it makes the first few hours far more compelling than I’d expected. A delightful little find.


PS Please be sure to come back on Sunday for an unmissable give-away draw which will be open only for one day.

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