Sunday, January 30, 2011

Welcome To This Blog's New Address

Please forgive me for my persistence, but I just want to publish one more post on this particular topic and then draw a line under it.

The address of this blog has been changed and is now

(or the more straightforward http://www.persolaise.com/)

If you're reading these words, then you've come to the correct Persolaise address.

However, if you use services like Google Friends or RSS feeds, then you may need to update your settings to reflect the new address.

If you've been kind enough to include me in your blog rolls, you may also like to consider amending your settings.

The old blog address will no longer be updated. New posts will appear only here at this address.

Thanks again for your patience.

Right, time to resume normal service. Which perfume shall I review next...?

Persolaise.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kids With Impeccable Taste

Here's an amusing mini-anecdote with which to start the weekend.
 
The other day, a young lad was shown into Madame Persolaise's office, something which happens on a regular basis in her line of work. He immediately took a deep breath, raised his voice and declared, "It always smells so posh in here!"
 
"Maybe it's my perfume," she said.
 
"Yeah, definitely! It's well posh!"
 
She did her best not to smile as she delivered the stern words for which he'd been summoned.
 
Out of the mouths of children...
 
---
 
I'm tempted to use this story as inspiration for a silly Saturday game. No prizes; this is just for fun. Try to name the perfume which elicited the boy's reaction. Leave your guesses in the Comments section. I'll give you more clues during the course of the day, but here are a couple for starters:
 
The fragrance in question is less than twenty years old (there seems to be some blogosphere confusion about exactly when it was released) and it has two words in its name.
 
Who's going to have the first guess?
 
Persolaise.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paris 2010: Two's A Crowd Chez Serge

It was only after I'd actually stepped inside Harrods the other day that my brain suddenly decided to remind me of the words 'January' and 'sale'. I considered walking straight back out, but the crowds didn't seem to be too thick, so I gritted my teeth and entered the perfume hall. Thankfully, there weren't too many people around, but the relative lack of shoppers was made up for by the ridiculous number of discounted Christmas gift sets. They were absolutely everywhere, piled up on each counter to such precarious heights, it was almost impossible to see the Sales Assistants. Guerlain was well represented: Idylle, Vetiver, Shalimar and Habit Rouge were on sale. I was rather dismayed to see vast boxes filled with Gaultier's Fleur Du Male. It's a particular favourite of mine, and its current ubiquitousness on the 'discount circuit' makes me wonder if it's about to be discontinued.

But anyway, all this is a preamble to writing a little more about my recent trip to Paris, because as I wandered from one cluttered counter to another, I found myself thinking, 'This couldn't be more different from Lutens.'

During my pre-Christmas getaway, I did, of course, make my way to the Palais Royal. Even though I've never considered myself to be a devout Serge acolyte, it was with a sense of considerable excitement that I worked my way through the labyrinth created by scaffolding and construction equipment - the Palais is currently enjoying a refurb - and approached what's frequently called the most enigmatic perfumery in Paris.

The first thing I noticed was the gloom. Yes, darkness can be evocative, but it can also be an obstacle; I could've done with a few more light bulbs. Or some Vitamin A tablets. But never mind. As in Guerlain's Champs-Elysees boutique, the most striking feature of the interior design was a staircase, but whereas the former's was shiny and expansive, Monsieur Lutens' version was a narrow, spiral number that wouldn't have looked out of place at Hogwarts. Alcoves in the walls contained exquisitely decorated, limited edition flacons of several well-known perfumes. Knee-high figures of page boys - their limbs stretched to surreal proportions like those of a Dali horse - framed minimalist tableaux containing artfully illuminated lipsticks. All was silent and serene.

Despite warnings to the contrary, the staff were perfectly warm and accommodating, guiding me through the bell jar collection with a smile and a welcome lack of patter. I'd been waiting for quite some time to try Sarrasins and was shocked to discover quite how white its floral accord is. La Myrrhe was something of a surprise too: 'No. 5 goes east' was my initial reaction to its aldehyde opening. I finally got to try the much-loved Iris Silver Mist and although I was impressed with its dryness, I didn't find it as endearing as Apres L'Ondee.

Just in case you're wondering, I didn't buy anything, but then I hadn't planned to. As I've written before, trying several perfumes in a short space of time in a single shop isn't a terribly sensible thing to do - especially if one's on the lookout for a relatively quiet scent - which is why I was grateful when the Sales Assistant opened a drawer and pulled out a handful of samples. She could probably tell that I wasn't the type to make a snap purchase.

So yes, Monsieur Lutens' oasis of scented harmony was miles away from the bargain buzz of London's flashiest department store. But I'm sure there's room - and a need - for both of them in our world of scent. Oh, and for the record, I should say that I didn't buy any perfume in Harrods either, despite the reduced prices. Turning my back on the unpurchased remnants of last Christmas, I nipped into the food hall and picked up a café religieuse for Madame Persolaise and a mille feuille for myself... but then, they were Buy One Get One Free...

Persolaise.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Can You See These Words?

Some of you may be aware that this blog's address has been changed and is now persolaise.blogspot.com (or, if you prefer, http://www.persolaise.com/) If you're reading these words, then don't worry: you've come to the correct Persolaise.

However, if you use services like Google Friends or RSS feeds, then you may need to update your settings to reflect the new blog address.

If you've been kind enough to include me in your blog rolls, you may also like to consider amending your settings.

From the 1st of February, the old blog will no longer be updated. New posts will appear only here at this address.

Thanks for your patience.

Persolaise.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: Archives 69 from État Libre D'Orange (2011)

You can't accuse ÉLdO of cowardice. The instant accessibility of last year's commendable Like This may have raised fears that one of perfumery's cockiest houses was starting to play it safe, but their newest offering - named after the address of their flagship Paris store - pulls them right back into spikier, more dangerous territory. In fact, it returns them to the area occupied by what many consider to be their most abrasive creation: the infamous Sécrétions Magnifiques. There are several moments in the development of Archives 69 when the all-too-familiar, gag-inducing, metallic wrongness of SM appears in the background, but it's never allowed to dominate. Instead, centre-stage is taken by an impressively indecipherable blend of snuffed candles, acrid, heavily synthetic marine-woods and brittle, aluminium-edged florals.

ÉLdO have stated that Archives 69 is another of their 'body' scents, and yes, its connection with their highly idiosyncratic 'olfactory understanding' of anatomical aromas is clear. But I'm not sure that their vision of what counts as an intimate smell necessarily resonates with other people's. In ÉLdO's oeuvre, the human form appears to be the site of odours which tend to repel rather than attract, and this latest release is no exception. On paper, its drydown does display a welcome muskiness, but on skin, it's cold and curt, like a glare from a stranger wielding deadly shoulder pads. Archives 69 is unusual, distinctive and rarely boring... but is it wearable? I'll leave that question to you.

[Christine Nagel is officially credited as the creator of Archives 69; review based on a sample obtained in 2011; fragrance tested on skin.]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jasmine Award Shortlist

Last night's modest party plans were thwarted: Madame Persolaise had eaten all the champagne truffles! I can't exactly complain, as I had bought them for her as a present, but I thought she might have left one for her sumptuously scented spouse.

Never mind. I found a stash of turrón in the fridge...

But you don't want to know about my tempestuous relationship with calories. Let's move on to more important matters.

Thanks to all of you who've left comments and sent emails with good wishes. I genuinely appreciate your support and I still can't quite believe that my efforts have been singled out for such prestigious recognition. As promised, here's the list of the other nominees in the Best Website Feature On Fragrance category of this year's Jasmine Awards. I'd be very interested to find out what you make of them.

Pink Really Does Stink by Judith Brockless (from Basenotes)
and of course

Hope you're all having a great weekend,

Persolaise.

Friday, January 21, 2011

NEWS - Jasmine Award Nomination

What a way to start a weekend!

I've just been informed that one of the articles I wrote for Basenotes (Bottled By Baccarat) has been shortlisted in the Best Website Feature On Fragrance category in this year's Jasmine Awards.

Needless to say, I am extremely excited.

I'd like to thank Grant Osborne for publishing the article and all of you for continuing to read my blog and giving me so much support and encouragement.

At some point over the weekend, I'll publish the entire shortlist so that we can all read the nominated articles.

But now, I think I'll treat myself to a celebratory champagne truffle.

Persolaise.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review: Leather Oud from Christian Dior and Absolue Pour Le Soir from Maison Francis Kurkdjian (2010)

It was only a matter of time before Dior created a non-mainstream perfume range to compete with Chanel's widely-praised Les Exclusifs. Dubbed La Collection Privée, it takes three of the existing boutique-only scents - Eau Noire, Bois D'Argent and Ambre Nuit - pumps them up to eau de parfum strength, pours them into slightly redesigned bottles and assembles them alongside seven new creations. Taken as a whole, Dior's effort probably falls just short of matching the elegance of Chanel's and may have had a more powerful impact if it had been released as a smaller set, but it also features at least one scenery-chewing monster of a masterpiece.

With the dry, tangy undertone of Atlas cedarwood as the eye of its storm, Leather Oud whips up a scorching shockwave of cloves, honey and parched leather to create a trail of heat so palpable, it almost literally leaves you gasping for air the first time you smell it. Needless to say, it contains an oud note as well, but not in the manner of the accords present in the output of, say, Montale. Here, it's very much tied into the overall structure of François Demachy's composition, mingling its indescribable, woody-earthy stink with the contributions of all the other materials to create an effect that is both raw and highly polished. Experience it from a distance, and you'll be impressed by its impeccable grooming. But get up close and you'll learn that what it's really got on its mind is an urgent tryst at a Moroccan tannery. In terms of bravery and divisiveness, this is unquestionably La Collection's equivalent of Sycomore: it pushes the limits of the mainstream and re-energises the house of Dior. My critical reserve has been all but devoured by its seductive insistence and I'm one intoxicated step away from granting it a place on my list of all time favourites.


A very similar vibe is created by the aptly named Absolue Pour Le Soir, which in many ways, plays the role of sultry August moon to Leather Oud's blazing midday sun. Atlas cedarwood is given prominence here too, but only after the wearer is allowed to recover from the initial shock - and boy, do I mean shock! - of a gorgeously animalic brew of civet, frankincense and, once again, honey and cloves. The aforementioned tannery has been swapped for a rustic chapel, but you can't relax just yet, because the person sitting across the aisle from you has a curiously crimson complexion and eyes with a demonic glint. Lasciviousness wins again. Not surprisingly, what remains after this feverish physicality is the sense of an afterglow, created by a rapturous blend of sweet musks, darkened with a touch of cumin. If this is how exciting Monsieur Kurkdjian's evenings are, I can't wait for him to make Absolue Pour La Nuit!

[Reviews based on samples of eau de parfum obtained in 2010; fragrances tested on skin. For the record, the other new perfumes in Dior's La Collection are Cologne Royale, Milly-La-Forêt, New Look 1947, Granville, Vétiver and Mitzah; reviews of the last four should appear on Persolaise.com before too long.]

Persolaise.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tech-Minded Winners

Who feels like winning a sample of perfume?

Thanks again to everyone who entered last week's SoOud draw. I have sought the guidance of Random.org and I can now reveal that the winner is

aka Warum

Congratulations! Please send your postal details to persolaise at gmail dot com and don't forget to let me know which one of the SoOud range you'd like to try. If you didn't get lucky today, don't worry: I'll hold another draw before too long.

And now, if you don't mind, I'd like to focus for a moment on a more technical subject. Some of you may have noticed that over the weekend, I briefly installed a new comment facility called Disqus. It turned out to be rather unstable, so I've now removed it, but the experience of trying it has led me to wonder what the feeling is out there as regards the interactive aspects of this blog.


My personal view is that although the current comment system functions as it should, it is extremely basic. I can do without unnecessary bells and whistles (such as links to Twitter feeds and Facebook profiles) but I'd really like to be able to introduce what are known as 'threaded comments'. In other words - and pardon me if I'm teaching granny to suck eggs - I'd like my replies to your thoughts to appear directly beneath each comment you leave, as opposed to the current system wherein you have to scroll all the way down to read my replies. (For an illustration of what I mean, check out these posts from Now Smell This and Nathan Branch).

The other problem is that I need to have some means of contacting people who take the time to write in. Over the last few months, there have been several occasions when I've had to wait a very long time for winners of sample give-aways to get in touch with me and claim their prizes, which has caused me a fair amount of inconvenience. The current does not demand that all 'commenters' should leave an email address, which means I've got no way of getting in touch with them. Disqus would have provided a neat solution to this little issue, had it worked properly...

So my question to you is this: are you happy with the current comment system or would you prefer something 'cleverer'?

Persolaise.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Trust Me - I Know What's Good For You

If you like to keep tabs on what's happening in the perfume blogosphere, you'll certainly have noticed that the last few weeks have seen the publication of several Best Of lists to mark the end of 2010. There is, of course, nothing especially remarkable about this: summative lists have been compiled for years in all fields of the arts. However, whilst glancing at some of them, I was reminded of recent thoughts about the possibility of objectively assessing whether a perfume is good or bad.

I suppose one of the purposes of such lists is precisely to arrive at this sort of objectivity: the unwritten principle seems to be that if enough people mention a certain scent, it must be good. On this premise, one could conclude that Ropion's Portrait Of A Lady and Duchaufour's Traversée Du Bosphore are both highly laudable, but it doesn't take a great deal of analysis to detect several flaws in such a strategy. And besides, it fails to bring us any closer to identifying the actual features that make a "good" perfume good.


I suspect most people for whom scent is a relatively serious business are happy to accept that it is possible to make the following statement: "I think fragrance X is good, but I just happen not to like it very much." In other words, they consider it possible to make an objective judgement that is distinct from personal preferences. This may sound impressively rational and intellectual, but I'd argue that all so-called objective criteria ultimately have to give way to the quirks of subjectivity.

Take tenacity, for example, which is frequently cited as an important characteristic of a 'good' fragrance. We all know what the word means in relation to a perfume, but who's to decide what is the right 'amount' of tenacity (if such an attribute can be measured in terms of amounts)? You may say it all depends on the overall nature of the scent, and of course you'd be right, but then who's to decide what is the right level of tenacity for a fresh cologne as opposed to a soft floral or a heavy oriental? Several scents that are considered too fleeting by some are judged by others to make their exit at just the right moment.

Another attribute of a 'good' perfume is what we might call seamlessness: a smooth progression from one moment to the next, with no jarring 'gaps' or awkward diversions. Again, this sounds eminently sensible when expressed in such dispassionate terms, but surely a great deal of subjectivity is involved here too. Perhaps one person will perceive a particular transition from, say, bergamot to lavender as graceful, whereas another might see it as clumsy. A perfume that follows a slightly less orthodox trajectory might be considered a failure by one wearer or a brave innovation by another.

Subjectivity also raises its head in all the other criteria used to judge a perfume: volume, diffusiveness, complexity, even originality. To greater or lesser degrees, all these are tempered by the different experiences and perceptions that each individual brings to a fragrance.

Every ten years, Sight & Sound - one of the world's most highly respected movie magazines - invites critics and directors to provide a list of their top 10 films of all time. The results are then collated to produce a final, overall list. (In case you're wondering, Citizen Kane has been at the top since 1962; the next grand survey is due in 2012.)

What's interesting about this exercise is not that certain films appear in individual lists a sufficient number of times to earn a place on the final tally. What's interesting is that when you look at each critic's or director's personal choices, you see a tremendous variation in their preferences and what they consider to be praiseworthy movies. (Equally interesting is a comparison between the overall Top 10 as voted by critics and the Top 10 as voted by directors: it shows quite clearly that the people who make movies and the people who critique them don't necessarily agree about what constitutes greatness.)

This open-mindedness must also be permitted to apply to perfume. I am not for one moment suggesting that all opinions should be granted equal weight, regardless of how vapid they are. "Perfume Z is rubbish because it's rosy and I can't stand rose," doesn't really get us anywhere. I absolutely believe that anyone who would like their fragrance appraisals to be taken seriously must make an effort to put aside - as much as possible - overly personal views on mere likes and dislikes. But the whimsical human element can never be erased completely, nor should it be. We need different conversations about perfume in just the same way that we need different perfumes. Indeed, we probably need the conversations more than we need a limiting, reductive sense of good and bad, because it's the conversations that will keep pushing the art into areas and forms that we can't even begin to imagine - or judge - at this moment in time.

Persolaise.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Smelly Bloggers


This is just a short entry to wish you all a great weekend and remind you that you've got until Sunday night (UK time) to enter the draw for a sample of any one of the eight SoOud perfumes.

If all goes according to plan, Sunday will also see the publication of a (fairly long!) post in which I attempt to get to grips with the notion of an objective assessment of a perfume's merits. Come back then and share your own thoughts on the subject.

Some of you may also be interested to learn that in the next few weeks I hope to upload reviews of several fragrances from Dior's new La Collection range as well as L'Artisan Parfumeur's Traversée Du Bosphore and Guerlain's two Arsène Lupin scents. And I still need to write a bit more about Paris!

As far as my personal perfumery is concerned, I'm pleased to be able to say that this week I've managed to have several productive sessions with my lotions and potions. My current idea - essentially based around the concept of a particular place - is slowly coming along, but as I think I've mentioned before, I now need to increase the number of planes on which it operates... which involves much more than just chucking a whole load of spices into the stew.

Oh and finally - just to end on a gloriously prosaic note - the date for the two-week destruction (and, fingers crossed, resurrection) of the bathroom has been set... and it's only a few weeks away. How many sprays of Tauer do you think I'll need to mask the odour of unwashed Persolaise...?

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody.

Persolaise.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review Showcase: SoOud (2010)

How many perfumes should you include in the launch of a brand new fragrance range? Well, Stéphane Humbert-Lucas and the people at Intertrade Europe seem to think that the answer's eight, because that's the number of scents they've unveiled in one fell swoop under the SoOud brand. This makes life a bit difficult for reviewers trying to find a balance between brevity and comprehensiveness, but the plus side is that all eight perfumes have one particular characteristic in common: an evocation of Arabia through a European sensibility. Although not all of them actually contain oud, a certain dry exoticism in their woody aspects tries to conjure an impression of the Gulf as seen by occidental eyes. Humbert-Lucas uses the phrase 'Dorian Gray meets Sheherezade' and whilst I probably wouldn't go for quite so fanciful an analogy, it's easy to see what he means.

In simplistic terms, each of the eight scents offers a variation on this very theme and attempts to tick a different box on the tally chart of olfactory families. So, for instance, Al Jana plays the role of the pale, barely-perceptible marine scent, Nur flirts with the idea of turning into a 70s-style aldehydic milky-floral, whereas Ouris immediately announces itself as a sugary, peachy gourmand. A darker - and arguably more interesting - atmosphere is created by Fam and Burqa: the former nudges a hint of oud to the forefront of a compelling wood blend, whilst the latter brings out the leathery aspects of agarwood and places them against a backdrop of a faint, violet-tinged sweetness.


I'd recommend Asmar for ballsy originality. Although it opens with a fatty honey note reminiscent of some faux-Provence bath products, it rapidly shifts to an unusual mix of cinnamon, coffee and wet cardboard hovering over a do-I-like-it-or-don't-I base of animalic amber. I was also impressed with Kanz. With its rapid-fire burst of oud, it's probably the most convincingly - or should that be stereotypically? - Arabic member of the collection, combining a strong rose accord with sandalwood, beeswax and leather. A single spray succeeded in transporting me back to idle teenage hours spent wandering around the fragrant shopping malls of Dubai, so far as I'm concerned, this juice is the real McCoy.

Despite Kanz's undoubted power, I think my favourite of the eight is Hajj. There are moments when it grows too cloying and threatens to lose balance, but its smoky apple accord also provides one of the happiest representations I've ever smelt of an evening spent sharing a sheesha with friends. More importantly, it dares to prove that the sorts of perfumes we like to call 'Arabic' need not always be heavy and heady. Essentially fresh, easy-going and open-eyed, Hajj is perhaps the fragrance which most vibrantly conjures a tableau in which a lethally beautiful Victorian gent settles down to hear a tale from the most alluring storyteller the world has ever known.

[Reviews based on samples of 'parfum nektar' (a term devised by Humbert-Lucas to denote a 35% concentration) obtained in 2010; fragrances tested on skin.]

---

Thanks to the generosity of Stéphane Humbert-Lucas, I'm pleased to be able to offer a sample of any one of the eight perfumes to a lucky reader. To enter the draw, please leave a comment on the topic of the west meeting the east.

Please note: i) the draw will be open until 10 pm (UK time) on Sunday 16th January; 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!

Persolaise.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Interview For BBC TV Documentary + Opus IV Sample Winner


Shall we start Sunday by picking a winner? Yes, I think we shall. In fact, I think we shall go one better. As the response to last week's Amouage sample draw was more enthusiastic than expected - and as I'm still in a munificent start-of-the-year mood - I think I'll ask Random.org to pull one more number out of its virtual hat. So here we go. The two lucky recipients of a vial of Opus IV are:

Michael
&
James

Congratulations to both of you. Please send your postal details to persolaise at gmail dot com and I'll get the sample to you as soon as possible. Thanks again to everyone who entered and also to Amouage for providing the prizes. If all goes according to plan, I should be able to hold another give-away on Tuesday, so please come back then.

Changing the subject, some of you will be aware that on Friday night I posted a Tweet stating that I'd just been interviewed for an upcoming BBC TV documentary about perfume. With director Ian Denyer's permission, I am now able to reveal that his three hour-long films will (almost certainly) be broadcast on BBC 4 at some point between April and the autumn. Although Mr Denyer hasn't yet completed the editing process - he's currently wading through over 200 hours' worth of footage - he informed me that the final cut will cover a wide-range of perfume-related topics - from the celebrity-driven approach of the American market to predictions for the future of the industry - as well as featuring insights into the work of some of the world's most famous perfumers. It all sounded utterly fascinating and I've asked him to let me know as soon as he's told when it's going to be broadcast, so that we can all generate some hype for it on the Blogosphere.

At this point, I'm sure you're all wondering why he wanted to interview me. Well, his current plan is to intersperse some of the documentary footage with shots of a few 'normal' people talking about one particular perfume which carries great personal significance for them. I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of his mini-interview subjects, so on Friday evening, at Maison Persolaise, he trained his camera on me and asked me to rattle off what I'm sure turned out to be a load of incoherent nonsense about the fragrance I'd selected. I'm well aware that my ramblings may end up on the cutting room floor, but the whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable, not least because it allowed me to spend some time in the delightful company of a fellow perfume lover.

I'll leave you to the rest of your weekend with a little guessing game: which perfume do you think I talked about? No prizes for getting the answer, this is just for fun! Submit your guesses as comments on this post and I'll leave a series of clues every now and then to make things easier for you. Here are your first two clues: the perfume is very well known and it's less than 30 years old.

Good luck!

Persolaise.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Paris 2010: Would Guerlain Notice If I Stole A Few Tiles?

I suspect this blog is going to mention bathrooms quite a lot over the course of the next few weeks. Or, to be more precise, one bathroom. The one and only bathroom at Maison Persolaise. The bathroom that is about to undergo what you could delicately refer to as a 'complete refurbishment'. Every single thing in it has to be changed: the floor joists have gone, the walls need to be stripped back to the bare bricks, the windows have to be totally replaced. In short, not one vestige of the existing bathroom will survive unscathed.

As you can imagine, the approach of this disruption to the peace at our precious haven has meant that Madame Persolaise and I have had to visit various shops looking at sinks, bathtubs, toilets, lights, towel rails... and tiles. And each time I see a selection of small, polished, golden mosaics, I'm reminded that I still owe you some reports from our Paris trip, because one of my most enduring memories of our mini-holiday was the sight of the grand staircase at the flagship Guerlain store on the Champs Elysees. Covered in thousands of tiny squares of radiance, it struck a careful balance between modernity and old-world opulence, whilst evoking a genuine sense of awe-struck wonderment (click here to see what I'm talking about).

What did I make of the rest of the shop? Well, I'm pretty certain that, of all the ones we visited, I found it the most beautiful. The Lutens shrine at the Palais Royal displayed an impressively understated austerity, but I'm not a fan of enforced darkness, which may be why I was more enchanted by the elegant, oversized flacons, the uncluttered surfaces and the gleaming, light-suffused aesthetics at Guerlain (created, at least in part, by the ubiquitous €12,500 Baccarat bee). Or maybe I was just won over by the weight of history: Nahema, Shalimar, Mitsouko, Habit Rouge, Jicky, Chamade... it was hard not to be moved by the force of these near-mythical names. I'd seen them hundreds of times in other shops, of course, but this was different. I was now encountering them in their spiritual home.

Having said that, one of the main reasons why perfume fans visit Paris-based Guerlain boutiques these days is to discover the 'exclusive' fragrances, and this is where I have to confess to feeling somewhat let down. It goes without saying that trying several different scents in the saturated atmosphere of a busy perfumery isn't the smartest idea in the world, but if samples aren't readily available, then there isn't much else one can do, short of booking a month-long stay at a hotel and popping into the shop every day to spray a different bottle. Needless to say, I did go armed with a notebook in which to store my blotters, but this isn't an ideal strategy either.

Caveats aside, I cannot claim that a single one of the Paris-only scents captured my imagination. I was particularly keen to smell Sous Le Vent and Vega, and whilst I thought they were both quite attractive, I couldn't quite see why they've been elevated to their current status. The Parisiennes also failed to generate anything more than a sense of muted approval: L'Ame D'Un Héros was insufficiently different from my bottle of Coriolan to warrant the higher price tag; Liu was a very pleasant aldehyde infusion that tried - and failed - to compete with No. 5; Mayotte somehow felt misplaced amongst the arguably more rarefied offerings and consequently came across as rather brash. Even the two Arsène Lupins didn't get my pulse going, although I concede I didn't pay as much attention to them as I could have, because I was mindful of the fact that they'll soon be at Harrods and therefore more easily accessible.

The only one that made me pause for a few moments was the extrait strength of one of my all-time favourites, Habit Rouge. I closed my eyes, felt the familiar, sweet dryness work its way into me, and I was reminded - for the nth time - why I love the juice as much as I do. But upon reflection I realised that one of the characteristics that makes this masterpiece so special is the careful interplay between the top notes and the base. The extrait places a much stronger emphasis on the heavier materials, which strips the composition of its vital, life-affirming sparkle. Plus it costs a ridiculous €300 (why sell an extrait only in 50 ml bottles?) which is yet another reason to keep treasuring my EDT and EDP.

Now, back to water closets.

Persolaise.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bertrand Eases The Crossing

An empty crib at Maison Persolaise
There's no point trying to deny the fact: normal life is just around the corner. It's time to resume routines and slip back into familiar patterns. In other words: The Day Job beckons. Madame Persolaise and I have packed away all the decorations and will have to spend the next few days getting re-accustomed to a house without sparkling fairy lights.

Still, I mustn't complain. As always, the Christmas break provided a welcome opportunity to relax a little bit, take stock of the last year and think about the future, particularly in relation to this blog and my overall perfume-oriented plans.

In order to make the transition to post-holiday existence a little easier, I've decided to wear a new perfume today in preparation for a review. My choice is Bertrand Duchaufour's much-lauded Traversée Du Bosphore for L'Artisan Parfumeur. Perhaps its sweetness will cheer me up over the course of what will no doubt be a pretty tiring day.

Persolaise.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Wishes + Sample Give-Away: Opus IV from Amouage


Happy New Year everybody! I'd like to wish all of you nothing but happiness, peace and good health for the next twelve months... not to mention lots and lots of wonderful perfume sniffing.

I'd like to start 2011 with a give-away for a sample of the new Opus IV, which was kindly provided by Amouage a few weeks ago. To enter the draw, please leave a comment about new year resolutions. Do you make them? If not, why not? If you do, are you willing to share yours with us?

Please note: i) the draw will be open until 10 pm (UK time) on Saturday 8th January; 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.

Best of luck,

Persolaise.

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