Friday, 9 November 2012

Persolaise Review: Poudre De Riz from Huitième Art + Djhenné from Parfumerie Générale + Orangers En Fleurs from Houbigant + Vanitas edt from Versace (2012)

In a field where most products fall under the 'pleasant but forgettable' category, anything that's even remotely challenging or perplexing deserves to be welcomed with open arms. Enter: Pierre Guillaume's latest addition to his Huitième Art range, Poudre De Riz.

When it was first presented to me, I was told to expect a similarity with Dominique Ropion's Alien, and yes, that odd, unearthly woody-jasmine accord is certainly one of its most prominent features. But this scent is no Mugler clone. It starts with a most curious juxtaposition: face powder and nail varnish remover. Next comes a suggestion of syrupy morello cherries, placed alongside the delicate texture of Japanese fruit jelly. Then the temperature is turned right down, to the extent that the powder facet feels like it's been locked inside an industrial freezer. And finally, the sweet, musky base suggests the intimacy of hair or the skin on the back of a familiar neck.

Don't worry if all this sounds like a mess; it absolutely isn't. But it is fairly hard to understand... until you discover Guillaume's own take on his creation. Whilst I'd assert that PDR isn't as carnal or visceral as its maker would have us believe, it does genuinely feel like a marriage of traditionally 'masculine' and 'feminine' smells (for every floral flourish, there's a woody steeliness) slumbering on a bed of tender physicality. What's more, it continues Guillaume's recent trend of toning down calorific gourmand notes. A beautiful release from a man whose output is becoming increasingly interesting.

In brief...
Let's stick with Pierre for a moment. Back in July 2011, my review of his Naïviris declared that the perfume was like a visit to the mosque in Djenné. By some delightful twist of scented coincidence, he's called his new creation for his Parfumerie Générale brand Djhenné... although the funny thing is that it doesn't make me think of Africa. It's essentially a lavender juxtaposed with those grating, rough-edged woods that seem to be de rigueur in so many mainstream masculines. It features an intriguing top section (a strange, herbal woodiness) and a commendable animalic facet (which fades too quickly) but it descends into an unremarkable, albeit enjoyable, vanillic drydown. Perhaps this is Guillaume's idea of Mali, but I struggled to see it anywhere south of the Med.

Speaking of Mediterranean smells, fans of orange blossom might like to try Houbigant's Orangers En Fleurs. An unashamedly old-school piece of work - put together at Robertet - it pumps out its core accord with startling power and diffusiveness. Compared to Lutens' Fleur D'Orangers, it's considerably less spicy and sweaty. Placed alongside Gorilla Perfumes' Orange Blossom, it is far cleaner and haughtier. And next to the superlative Rubj (Vero Profumo) or Séville À L'Aube (L'Artisan Parfumeur) it is much more linear and predictable. But it ticks all the white flower boxes in suitably opulent fashion and ensures that its journey to its soapy drydown is never dull.

And finally, the subject of soap makes me think of one of the mainstream's most ubiquitous notes in 2012: shampoo. As if we didn't already have enough fruity, musky, don't-worry-I've-just-stepped-out-of-the-shower insipidness, Versace have decided to release an edt of last year's Vanitas. There is a place for these sorts of perfumes and there have been some notable examples of the genre (Sophia Grojsman's Calyx comes to mind), but Vanitas has nothing of interest to offer. I'm sure the creative forces at Versace chose the scent's name because of its links with 'vanity', but perhaps they should have delved deeper into their etymology books. In Latin, 'vanitas' means 'emptiness'. I rest my case.

[Review of Poudre De Riz based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Les Senteurs in 2012; review of Djhenné based on a sample of eau de parfum obtained in 2012; review of Orangers En Fleurs based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Houbigant in 2012; review of Vanitas based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Versace in 2012.]

Please don't forget to check out this post for info about how you can win a full bottle of Penhaligon's Juniper Sling. And if you're in or near London on the 29th of November, you might like to attend my book signing event; click here for more details.



  1. Poudre de Riz was powdery and quite soft and feminine on me, but now I have nipped over to Basenotes to read more about its inspiration, I am agog to give it another go to see if I get more of its raunchy beach cabin accord!

    1. Vanessa, I couldn't agree more that PdR is mainly powdery, but yes, I do think there are other elements present too. Mind you, I don't entirely go along with PG's analogy.


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