Friday, 16 November 2012

Persolaise Review: Ambre Doré from Maître Parfumeur Et Gantier (2012) + La Petite Robe Noire extrait from Guerlain (2012) + Miss Dior Le Parfum from Dior (2012) + Cloon Keen Atelier (2011)

In the same way that theatre producers use Macbeth to get bums on seats, perfume houses tend to use vanilla-based scents as their cash cows. And more often than not, they link the ingredient with labdanum and benzoin to produce that most crowd-pleasing of fragrances: amber. Of course, the popularity of the genre makes it extremely difficult for perfumers to find anything new to say when working within it. The textbook classic of the type, Shalimar, has been around for almost one hundred years, yet it still takes some beating. Ambre Sultan pretty much dominates the corner held by herbal, smoky ambers. And Musc Ravageur - itself a reinterpretation of Shalimar - is probably the consummate 21st century amber. Almost all the bases have been covered.

But every now and then, someone finds a new angle, or travels further along a previously chosen path, which is when we get something like Ambre Doré. Those of you who've enjoyed the pungent pleasures of Montale's Aoud Cuir D'Arabie will recognise its construction straight away: it is essentially a bold, roasted leather, atop a vanillic base, with a scattering of bitter thyme, tarragon and dill. But whereas the Montale places most of its emphasis on its woody, tannery notes, AD goes for a reverse structure and grants a larger share of the limelight to the drydown.

The contrast between the two facets is a feast to be savoured: the leather appears to solidify the vanilla, endowing it with a solid jaw and granite shoulders, whereas the amber base causes the more animalic elements to take on a gentler, more edible tone, like a near-imperceptible smudge of Nutella on a stubbled chin. The perfume's been incorrectly named - it would have been better off with the moniker assigned to last year's release from this brand, Cuir Fétiche - but apart from that minor problem, it joins the ranks of its many predecessors in pretty convincing fashion. If you're after a naughty amber, this one may well have your name on it.

In brief... I can't claim to be overly impressed by all three of the debut scents from the Irish brand Cloon Keen Atelier. Bataille De Fleurs is an innocuous mimosa composition with hints of lilies and sharp greens. It may have been composed by Stéphanie Bakouche, but it is disappointingly monochromatic compared to her work for MDCI. And contrary to the claim made on the CKA website, it certainly doesn't create the "windswept atmosphere of being on the Côte D'Azur." Terre De L'Encens employs the services of juniper-like notes to suggest ozonic freshness - which is fine - but its heart is an insipid, overly synthetic incense note with none of the soulfulness one would hope to find in a fragrance bearing such a momentous name. Rather unexpectedly, it resembles Lutens' L'Eau Froide, not least in terms of the speed with which it outstays its welcome.

The only one worthy of merit is Castaña. Apparently it was designed to evoke the "mouthwatering aroma of street roasted chestnuts in Andalusia" and perfumer Delphine Thierry has definitely succeeded in creating a near-palpable haze of rich, warm nuttiness. But she's also used a hefty dose of aldehydic ingredients, which immediately aligns the scent with No 5. Indeed Castaña feels very much like a combination of Eau Premiere (the citrus peel notes fizz with excitement at the opening) and a brew displaying a much darker, more Hispanic temperament. I've recently been told by several Chanel sales assistants that the new Brad Pitt advertising campaign has caused many male customers to ask - with understandable logic - if there's a new version of No 5 for men. Of course, the correct answer to their question would be, "No 5 is as unisex as all other perfumes," but I suspect that wouldn't go down too well, so perhaps the gentlemen hoping to buy a piece of Brad's aura could be persuaded to try Castaña.

Finally, I was very pleased to discover that Guerlain have released an extrait version of La Petite Robe Noire. Housed in the gendarme bottle, it takes the endearing rose-and-cherry accord and makes it heavier without causing it to become sticky or cloying. If you found the EDP too inconsequential, this iteration might be more to your liking. Dior have also come up with a new parfum of Miss Dior. I confess I am now totally confused by the many recent versions of this one-time classic. It would seem that this latest extrait is of the strawberry-popcorn-patchouli scent (the one which used to be called Miss Dior Chérie... right??) and whilst I was never a fan, I confess that in this incarnation, it isn't so excruciatingly juvenile. But then perhaps that'll cause it to alienate its core demographic. Try it for yourself... and see if you break out in pink polka dots.

[Review of Ambre Doré based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Les Senteurs in 2012; reviews of Cloon Keen Atelier perfumes based on samples of eau de parfum obtained in 2012; review of La Petite Robe Noire based on a sample of extrait provided by Guerlain in 2012; review of Miss Dior based on a sample of extrait provided by Christian Dior in 2012.]



  1. Interesting, I hadn't thought of Castana as aldehydic, I must give it another sniff. I do adore it's nuttiness, a gourmand note without being overly sweet or cloying.. I have a tiny of sample of this scent that I will adore in small doses over a long time.

    1. Sarah, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I enjoyed the savoury gourmand vibe too. As a brand, CKA seems to be enjoying increasing popularity. Perhaps their wares will become more interesting as time passes.


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