Friday, 27 December 2013

Best Perfumes Of 2013

Don't look now, folks, but I think we've made it to the end of another December. Rose-tinted nostalgia goggles aside, it's probably fair to say that 2013 has been as interesting and eventful as most other years: new perfumers were welcomed into the fold at Hermès and Chanel; oud refused to go quietly; the Gatsby fashion revival fell flat on its inebriated face (thank goodness!); Nicki Minaj made a convincing bid for Most Hideous Perfume Bottle Of All Time; and, rather encouragingly, the issue of anti-allergen legislation seemed to quieten down a little bit.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Wishes 2013

I can't believe a year has gone by past since I last wished all of you a Merry Christmas. It's a cliche, but I honestly don't know where the time's gone. Something to ponder as I reach for another mince pie...

I'll be back on Friday with my list of the best perfumes of 2013, but until then, I'd like to wish you and yours a peaceful, happy and memorable Christmas. Have fun, relax, make merry... and don't be stingy with the brandy butter!


Friday, 20 December 2013

Persolaise Review: Oumma from 777 (Stéphane Humbert-Lucas; 2013)

If you're going to do something that's been done before, you'd better do it well. And if the thing you're going to do is artistically suspect and quite possibly mercenary, then you'd better do it damn well. I'd suggest this applies to almost all forms of creative self-expression. Take the world of film, for instance. Hollywood blockbusters tend to be showered with derision by high-minded critics... unless they're slick, watertight, Spielberg-style affairs, in which case they're lavished with praise of the 'not all commercial cinema is rubbish' variety. With high-quality, technical wizardry on their side, such films seem to quash any voices of dissent.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Keeping It Moody - Karl Bradl And Bertrand Duchaufour At London's Aedes De Venustas Launch

image: Aedes De Venustas

Mood boards, rare irises and the conservativeness of the French market all came up when I met Karl Bradl and Bertrand Duchaufour in London recently to talk about the launch of various products under the Aedes De Venustas banner. To read my Basenotes article about our encounter, please click here.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Twenty Blotters For... Neela Vermeire

Pick a blotter... read the question... give a short, snappy answer!

Although her eponymous brand has been around for a relatively brief time, Neela Vermeire has already managed to convince scent lovers worldwide of her commitment to high-quality perfumery. Her four compositions, Trayee, Mohur, Bombay Bling and Ashoka (all put together by Bertrand Duchaufour) speak volumes about her passion for fragrance and her love of rich, textured raw materials. I was fortunate enough to have a brief meeting with her in Paris a little while ago, during which I asked if she'd mind being accosted by my Twenty Blotters. I'm pleased to report that she said Yes...

Friday, 13 December 2013

Persolaise Review: Monsieur from Huitième Art (Pierre Guillaume; 2013)

Monsieur makes me angry. Sure, it displays the high levels of technical competence that we've now come to expect from Pierre Guillaume - it's diffusive, long-lasting and generally cohesive - but it's intensely irksome. For one thing, it appears to ignore the central premise of the Huitième Art range. Unless I'm mistaken, Guillaume wanted the scents in this particular brand to showcase important aromachemicals in compositions that would adopt abstract approaches to the presentation of abstract concepts. But that's not my main problem with it; I can forgive PG if he feels he'd like to branch out from his initial manifesto. My real gripe is that Monsieur feels like a betrayal. Of all the perfumery genres Guillaume could have chosen to accompany this scent's name, he went for the most cliched. With its citrus, dense woods, vetivert, patchouli and musks, this stuff is a stereotype from start to finish, keeping to dull convention at every stage of its development, not least when it reaches the drydown that borrows heavily from YSL's Rive Gauche Pour Homme. From a mainstream brand, this would have been par for the course. But from someone in Guillaume's position, it just isn't good enough. At a time when even a brand as ubiquitous and high-street-friendly as Zara sees fit to stock its menswear department with an evening jacket entirely covered in black sequins, Guillaume should have had the courage to present his Monsieur as anything other than a cocktail of woodiness. A cause for polite outrage, if ever there was one.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Bloom in 2013. For another review of Monsieur, please visit Candy Perfume Boy.]


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

"This Is The Moment To Do It" - Madalina Stoica On The Fairy Tale Beginnings Of Jul Et Mad

The story behind the creation of Jul Et Mad has 'PR gold' written all over it in letters so shiny, it's difficult to stop the cynic in you from questioning its truthfulness. But on the grounds that fact is stranger than fiction, it must be completely genuine. Its decisive moment took place when co-founder Madalina Stoica took a trip to... where else... Paris.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Home Scents For Christmas 2013 - From Diptyque's Mechanical Air To Kurkdjian's Supernatural Jasmine

You can keep your boughs of holly and your clove-encrusted oranges. If there's one thing that's enjoyable about the yuletide season, it's the opportunity to scent your home with olfactory creations that are as complex and evocative as those in our favourite perfumes. Fragrance brands are well aware of this, which is why the run-up to December invariably sees the release of several different forms of parfums d'ambiance.

Friday, 6 December 2013

The Osmothèque Reviews: Fougère Royale from Houbigant (Paul Parquet; 1882/1884?)

*** For background information on my Osmothèque Reviews,
please click here ***

Oh, what a monster we've created! Mention the word 'fougère' nowadays to a knowledgeable perfume lover, and you're unlikely to evoke an image of softness; the likes of Cool Water and Géranium Pour Monsieur notwithstanding, the genre is currently seen as occupying the rougher, more abrasive end of the scent spectrum. And yet the very first example of the type is a vision of tenderness, generosity and decorum.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Tauer Advent 2013 - Explorer Set Winner

Thanks very much indeed to all of you who entered yesterday's Tauer Perfumes draw. I enjoyed reading all your entries. Sadly, there can be only one winner, and on this occasion the lucky person is

Forrest Aubel

Congratulations to you! Please send your postal details to persolaise at gmail dot com so that I can forward them to Tauer Perfumes. And please do remember to let me know which scents you'd like in your Explorer Set. Note that not all the perfumes in the Tauer range are available in the 15 ml size; for more info, please click here.

Commiserations to everyone else... but don't despair! You still have many more chances to win a Tauer prize; click here to find out how.

Finally, my thanks again to Andy for inviting me to join his programme of Advent give-aways.


PS Don't forget to come back tomorrow for the first of my Osmothèque Reviews.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Persolaise's Osmothèque Reviews + Andy Tauer's Advent Give-Away

*** To skip to the Tauer Perfumes Advent Draw,
please scroll to the bottom of this post. ***

I've decided that we need to build a nuclear bunker around the whole of Versailles. One of these days, our appetite for destruction may get the better of us and we might reduce our planet to a gallery of empty shopping malls and a mountain of paper coffee cups. So we need to be prepared. Because if a few human beings survive the apocalypse, they'll have to be made aware of the glories that came before them. And that's why Versailles needs to be protected.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Persolaise Gets Angry In ParfumPlus

I'm pleased to announce that the latest issue of Dubai-based ParfumPlus magazine features a piece by yours truly. Some of you may recognise the article: it was first published here on a little while ago. Please click here to be re-directed to a 'flipbook' version of it. Do take the time to check out the Bertrand Duchaufour interview too; it features some excellent photo portraits of him.


PS Please be sure to come back on Wednesday for a very exciting, one-day-only give-away!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Persolaise Review: Épice Marine from Hermès (Jean-Claude Ellena; 2013)

If only all press packs were as helpful as the one for Épice Marine. Amongst the various bits and pieces of info provided by Hermès for this latest addition to the Hermessence collection is an extract from a diary Jean-Claude Ellena kept whilst he was creating the scent. Such is its clarity, that I feel compelled to reproduce sections of it here. The first is from October 2011 and it recounts a meeting in Northern France between the gnomic perfumer and chef Olivier Roellinger, after which the former decided to create a scent "on the theme of spices but blended with the invigorating smells of the Brittany coast." The initial step was to extract an oil from roasted cumin seeds. Ellena writes,

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

From Mick To Madonna - The Winner Of The Etat Libre D'Orange Competition

A big Thank you to everyone who entered last week's Etat Libre D'Orange competition. From your submissions, it looks as though you had tremendous fun trying to match the various public figures to the brand's scents. I confess I did chuckle when I saw how many of you reckoned that David Beckham would be paired up with Delicious Closet Queen (Freudian slip or wishful thinking?) and also when it became clear that most of you had decided poor Paris Hilton couldn't be anything other than a Hotel Slut. But of course, the person whose views matter the most in this situation is Etienne De Swardt. So here comes the reveal you've been waiting for, complete with the man's comments and explanations:

Friday, 22 November 2013

Christmas 2013 Perfume Gift Recommendations - Little Black Dresses, Smoky Vanillas... And A Good Read

Please don't mention sprouts or cranberries. I haven't even done my cards yet! And as for presents... well, I expect there'll be a fair amount of mad dashing around in the next few weeks. But to get myself in a gift-giving mood - and to offer inspiration to those of you struggling to find something suitable for the scentusiasts in your life - I'm going to ward off my foray into the retail rat race a little longer and indulge in some Yuletide list-making. So mull that wine, jingle that bell, mince that pie and allow the delights of Persolaise's Christmas 2013 recommendations to cascade upon you like thick gravy smothering a plateful of sizzling roasties. Enjoy!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Smell Of Half A Century - Doctor Who Discovers Perfume On The Programme's 50th Anniversary

Image: Grant Osborne

Geek Alert: this could be the nerdiest piece I've ever written!

Doctor Who, the world's longest-running sci-fi TV series, is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary... which means that all of us list-loving, scent-worshipping, Dalek-fearing aficionados have an opportunity to indulge in that most indulgent, navel-gazing of activities: dreaming up a Universe in which the TARDIS crosses paths with a perfume's sillage. The result of my own, adolescent fan-boy musings is a Basenotes piece which pairs a different scent with each incarnation of our favourite Gallifreyan. What's more, it features superb, must-see artwork by Grant Osborne and Alan Hindle. Please click here to be taken to it.

Here endeth the Geek Alert.


PS Please click here to enter a competition for a full bottle of perfume from Etat Libre D'Orange. And please be sure to come back tomorrow for my Christmas 2013 gift recommendations.

Image: Alan Hindle

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Win A Bottle Of Perfume From Etat Libre D'Orange

A little while ago, I was fortunate enough to interview Etienne De Swardt, the founder of Etat Libre D'Orange, at his brand's flagship store in Paris. The full text of what turned out to be a relatively serious discussion will be published in due course, but today, I'd like to draw your attention to a moment in our chat when I decided to lighten the tone. I asked him which of his scents he'd recommend if certain well-known people walked into his shop... and it then occurred to me that his responses could be used as the basis for a bit of fun here on I'm pleased to say that De Swardt shared my enthusiasm for the idea, and thanks to his generosity, I'm able to hold an unusual little competition here on my blog.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Persolaise Review: Phi - Une Rose De Kandahar from Tauer Perfumes (Andy Tauer; 2013)

I wonder if Andy Tauer has ever smelt the original Fougère Royale. I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Paul Parquet's masterpiece quite recently at the Osmothèque in Versailles (more on this in the weeks to come) and I was struck by how gentle and floral it is. It spawned a genre which now tends towards a stereotypically male harshness, but back in the 19th century, it was a paragon of subtlety and sophistication, designed to complement rather than dominate the wearer.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

"Nahema Is A Weapon Of Mass Destruction" - Guerlain's Thierry Wasser Pops Into London Again

Thierry Wasser was on fine form during a recent visit to London. When one of the writers in attendance suggested that Boots is the British equivalent of Sephora, he begged to differ, on the grounds that "you can't get an enema at Sephora." For him, these sardonic asides appear to be a method of punctuating more serious, considered insights. For the Guerlain PR team, they're a cause of heart palpitations. But that doesn't seem to worry Wasser. He just carries on, apparently saying the first thing that comes to his mind... although I have no doubt he's always in full control of his mouth. Here are his responses to some of the questions that were put to him.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Persolaise Review: Égoïste from Chanel (Jacques Polge; 1990) + No 5 Jumps In The Bath

As Égoïste has now been allowed to take its rightful place at all UK Chanel counters (until very recently, it was available only at the brand's own boutiques) the time is right for a brief re-assessment of its merits. Yes, the drydown of its original, 1990 version may have been smoother (you can blame any deterioration on the current price and scarcity of sandalwood) but its 2013 incarnation remains in the Top 3 chart of mainstream masculines bearing the double-C logo (with the other two places occupied by Pour Monsieur and Antaeus, of course). Much has been written about its aromatic, fruity, syrupy aspects - which is wholly justifiable, given these elements' dominance in the scent's construction - but I'm always amazed by how few people seem to notice that this stuff is seriously combustible. Sure, it places heavy emphasis on woods, but there's smoke too, and plenty of flames. The main focus may be on apples, trees and herbs, but they're perpetually alight, making this one of perfumery's most compelling bonfire of the vanities.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Little Bit Of Oud - Alberto Morillas On Making Iris Prima For Penhaligon's

When Alberto Morillas (CK One, Kenzo Flower) hopped over to London a few months ago to launch Penhaligon's Iris Prima, he revealed that the perfume contains - shock horror - a touch of oud. To find out why he decided to include the material in a release from this most English of brands, please click here and you should be re-directed to Basenotes.


Friday, 1 November 2013

Perfume, Poland And The Past - Scented Memories On All Saints' Day

"Sometimes, this is not easy," she says. "You know, after a long day at work, when you're far away from home and nobody has much time for you, the last thing that you want to do is take yourself back inside the past." She shrugs. "But it's worth it."

Maryla's gaze wavers for a moment. Then she blinks a few times and smiles. "It's always worth it."

Today she and several of her female friends from south Hampshire's growing Polish community will be marking All Saints' Day. Had they still been living in Poland, they would have had the day off work - the 1st of November is a national holiday - and they would almost certainly have spent it visiting the graves of loved ones. They would have lit candles and placed fresh flowers in vases. And as the evening sky darkened, their faces would have been lit by the tiny flames reflecting off the granite tombstones.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Persolaise Review: La Fin Du Monde from Etat Libre D'Orange (Quentin Bisch; 2013)

There are several reasons to be excited about La Fin Du Monde. Firstly, it's this year's only release from Etat Libre D'Orange, a house which consistently manages to combine quirkiness with quality. As per usual, the scent's name suggests that it's a reflection of founder Etienne De Swardt's anarchic streak. But its inspiration is much more than some vague, playful notion of the apocalypse. According to the ELDO press release, it is, in fact, a Blaise Cendrars book entitled The End Of The World Filmed By The Angel Of Notre Dame, in which the death of the universe is a movie (of sorts) depicting a cosmic cataclysm, followed by a rewind to life as it was pre-oblivion: "Back in Paris, the buses and cars are moving. Crowds bustle around the Square of Notre Dame." A curious narrative, ripe for olfactory interpretation.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Persolaise Review: Bottega Veneta Pour Homme from Bottega Veneta (Daniela Andrier & Antoine Maisondieu; 2013)

I keep smelling Amouage's Epic Man everywhere! Perhaps the substances responsible for its distinctive, ghosts-of-antiquity woodiness are becoming more readily available to perfumers. Or maybe other brands just want to have their own version of Christopher Chong's secret chest of treasures. Whatever the reason, shades of Epic's identity can be found in Cuir 28 (Le Labo's new Antaeus-on-a-flying-carpet, exclusive to Dubai) and the subject of this review: Bottega Veneta's first scent aimed at men. It starts off a touch too sharp (for a moment, you wonder if it's going to drag you down into the corner of 80s hell inhabited by Drakkar Noir) but then it warms up into a spicy, peppered incense, bolstered by skin-caressing musks. The tannery is kept a safe distance away - the volume knob remains one notch above 'discreet' at all times - and the feminine BV is alluded to with a violet facet, made more conventionally masculine with the inclusion of pine-inflected notes. It isn't ground-breaking, but as far as mainstream releases for men go, it is highly commendable stuff. Don't walk past it without indulging in a quick spritz.

[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Bottega Veneta in 2013.]


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

As Playful As Ever? - New TV Ads for Gaultier's Classique And Le Male

At the recent London launch of the new TV advert for Gaultier's Classique and Le Male, Isabelle Fulconis* claimed that one of the main challenges faced by the team responsible for the campaign was finding a way to remain transgressive. "How can we fly in the face of convention," she said, "when so many of those conventions have fallen down?"

Friday, 18 October 2013

Persolaise Review: London, Tobacco Oud, Oud Fleur & Oud Wood from Tom Ford (2013)

Back when YSL's M7 was worthy of the image of a naked, hairy martial arts expert, I bought myself a bottle of one of the scent's ancillary products, a so-called Moisturizing Body Lotion. It's still in my collection, and every now and then, I dig it out for a quick sniff. I have no doubt that the Derma Cops would say the stuff is now well past its sell-by date and shouldn't be placed anywhere near human skin. But as it hasn't done me any harm yet, I shall continue to revisit it and enjoy the perfect timbre of its hyper-masculine woodiness.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Who Do You Work For? - Thoughts On Blogs And Perfume Criticism

In his editorial in the current issue of Sight & Sound, Nick James considers recent developments in the world of film criticism. He explains that many newspapers have closed down their arts departments. Uncertainty surrounds the perceived influence of the internet. And several stalwarts of the UK critical establishment have, for various reasons, penned their final words in the last few months, with the result that there's a great deal of new blood around. In relation to this particular point, James writes

Friday, 11 October 2013

Persolaise Review: The Odd Fellow's Bouquet from Atkinsons (Fabrice Pellegrin; 2013)

Fabrice Pellegrin is particularly skilled at finding a balance between accessibility and distinctiveness. In The Odd Fellow's Bouquet (one of two works he's created for the revived house of Atkinson's, the other being the soft-hued lily dubbed The Nuptial Bouquet) he manages to convey a decidedly masculine feel (courtesy of pale tobacco, well-worn leather and blown-out matches) with a truly surprising blend of rose, effervescent ginger, dark liquorice, dawn in an Alpine forest, straggly mosses and the curious, part-terpenic, part-phenolic, 'powdered chemicals' odour of pharmacies circa 1984. The overall effect is difficult to describe - which is why it's so compelling - but if you can picture a bow-tie-wearing gent wielding a cigar in one hand whilst sprinkling pine needles onto a child's chemistry set with the other, then you're heading in the right direction. An example of 'heritage' scent creation as it ought to be executed (ie equal amounts of healthy respect for both past and present), this is one case where 'odd' is delightfully, refreshingly apposite.

[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Atkinson's in 2013.]


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Make Perfume Not War - Histoires De Parfums' Gérald Ghislain Turns To Charity

A few days ago, I bemoaned perfume brands' growing reliance on unconvincing stories to sell their wares. Well, round about the same time, as if on cue, an email popped into my Inbox from Histoires De Parfums' founder Gérald Ghislain, containing a 'story' infinitely more meaningful than the usual run of scented narratives. Ghislain has set up a charity he's called Make Perfume Not War which aims "to finance associations and charitable projects that promote and enhance the development and well-being of children worldwide through education, the arts, sports, technology and microfinance."

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Rise And Rise Of The In-House Perfumer - Persolaise In The Financial Times

What will Jacques make for these Louis Ladies?

Jasmine Award-winner Emma Hill has just had a brief piece published in the Financial Times on the subject of in-house perfumers. I'm mentioning it partly because it features a quote from yours truly, but also because it's well worth reading, so please click here to be redirected to it.


Friday, 4 October 2013

Persolaise Review: 1996 from Byredo (Jérôme Epinette; 2013)

I don't envy perfume brands the task of coming up with a 'story' for a new release. It's a thankless job, fraught with paradoxes. If the perfume is sub-standard, its accompanying narrative is seen as a underhanded way of concealing its shortcomings. But if it's any good, then it stands on its own two feet and abandons the need for extra support. Byredo's new 1996 is a case in point. I can just see sales assistants having hours of fun with all its fancy trimmings: it's named after a photo called Kirsten 1996 taken by fashion darlings Inez & Vinoodh; oh, look, you can see the photo on the packaging; the scent was originally a not-for-sale, limited edition, but it generated such a buzz (quelle surprise!) that it simply had to be made publicly available. All of this may well be true, but it's also terribly yadda yadda yadda, because the only thing you really need to know about 1996 is that it's a great piece of work.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

I Love You, Man - Male Relationships In Pictures

My recent review of Aramis' Perfume Calligraphy Rose and my suggestion that Etro's current male clothing collection would go well with Tauer's Une Rose Chypree prompted several interesting emails from readers on the subject of gender politics and which perfumes are 'appropriate' for guys. As chance would have it, a few days ago, a relative sent me a link to a piece on the Art Of Manliness site which uses a fascinating stash of old photos to explore attitudes towards masculine sexuality and relationships between men. Do take a moment to check it out, even if only to look at the pictures. As the article suggests, to a certain extent, we are all constructs of the cultures which have shaped us. If we choose to ignore this, we do so at our peril and at the risk of succumbing to the corrosive effects of bigotry and narrow-mindedness. I leave you with this thought as I reach for a quick spritz of Nahema.


Friday, 27 September 2013

Persolaise Review: Cuir 28 from Le Labo (Nathalie Lorson; 2013)

Those who take an interest in such matters will be aware that Le Labo mentioned the arrival of its Dubai exclusive quite some time ago; at one point it seemed certain that the scent would be released in early 2012. The year came and went with no sign of the perfume and some of us began to wonder if the project had been shelved. Clearly, those fears were unfounded: Cuir 28 has now poked its head above the dunes. What's more, the fragrance has emerged during Le Labo's biennial free-for-all, during which its entire 'exclusive' range is available at all its boutiques. So far from being a low-profile release tucked away in a corner of Dubai Mall's Paris Gallery, it is temporarily within reach of pretty much everyone with access to the Internet*.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Not A Middle Eastern Brand - An Interview With Thameen Founder, Basel Binjabr

There's a new perfume brand at Selfridges and - surprise surprise - it hails from the Arab world... or does it? Click here to read my Basenotes interview with its founder, Basel Binjabr, in which he tries to explain why he doesn't want his venture, Thameen, to be associated with any particular part of the world. And while you're at it, spare a moment for the reader comments at the end. Many of them revolve around Binjbar's views on niche scents and the role of the Internet in the perfume industry.


Friday, 20 September 2013

Scent On The Catwalk - Perfume For Fashion

It's joint-list-making time again here in our corner of the blogosphere and the task of choosing our theme has fallen to the Candy Perfume Boy. As he gave us a pretty free hand - all he said was that he wanted our post to take its inspiration from the world of fashion - I decided to structure the assignment by imposing these rules on myself:

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Persolaise Review: Modern Muse from Estée Lauder (Harry Fremont; 2013)

The people at Lauder are calling Modern Muse their biggest feminine fragrance launch since Beyond Paradise (Calice Becker's otherworldly garden of green jasmine from 2003). The advertising campaign would certainly seem to back this up: the posters are becoming increasingly ubiquitous and department stores are starting to make more room for the displays featuring the thin, navy blue ribbon tied around the fragrance's image. Given such heavy-weight publicity, it's reasonable to predict that the elegant bottle will find itself tucked under several Christmas trees later this year.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Persolaise Review: Ashoka from Neela Vermeire Créations (Bertrand Duchaufour; 2013)

Neela Vermeire's eponymous brand has reached the perfumery equivalent of the difficult second album. Her three debut scents (all composed by Bertrand Duchaufour... ever heard of him?) made such a tremendous impact in Niche-ville that her follow up was always bound to be a tricky prospect. Would it continue in the same vein as the original trio or would it strike out in a new direction? Well, Ashoka is officially unveiled in Florence today and I'm pleased to say that it shows signs of some very astute thinking on Vermeire's part.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

What We Really Wore This Summer - 2013

I know, it's a hard life. As a perfume critic, I don't often get to wear scents from my personal collection; I'm usually covering myself in stuff which I'm evaluating for a review. But then along comes the summer and all such commitments are shoved to one side: I'm free to smell as I please. The decision about which fragrances to pack into the suitcase is rarely easy (I told you: it's a hard life). But once the holiday is over, the sand has been shaken out of the beach towels and the eye-watering heap of junk mail has been flung into the recycling bin, I always find it interesting to look back and consider why I picked the scents I picked and, indeed, whether they were as enjoyable as I'd hoped they would be.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Speaking Your Mind - An Interview With Atelier Cologne's Sylvie Ganter

Despite its relative youth, Atelier Cologne has made a considerable impact on the niche (and not-so-niche) perfume circuit. One of the brand's co-founders, Sylvie Ganter, popped into London's Les Senteurs a few months ago to bring her work to the attention of UK-based scentusiasts. She started by talking about a fateful job interview...

To read my Basenotes report on her visit, please click here.


Friday, 6 September 2013

Persolaise Review: Skin On Skin, Amour Nocturne and Déliria from L'Artisan Parfumeur (Bertrand Duchaufour; 2013)

I'm not sure why L'Artisan Parfumeur have given us the Explosions D'Émotions mini-range, but there we are: the logic of fragrance releases isn't always easy to work out. As a brand, they've recently struggled to maintain their identity - examples of this include their decision to ditch their 50 ml bottles and their smaller candles, their Caligna marketing campaign, the categorisation of their scents into 'masculine' and 'feminine', their flirtations with Sephora and their presence on QVC - so perhaps this new trio of scents is just the latest evidence of some kind of internal re-alignment. Maybe we're supposed to read it as a sign of greater changes to come. Or maybe Bertrand Duchaufour - yes, him again - just had three spare fragrances lying around and didn't want them gathering the proverbial dust in his lab. Who knows? The facts are that they're with us and that, for whatever reason, L'Artisan don't wish us to view them as part of the main collection. According to the press release, the scents' unifying theme is "the emotional power of olfactory art", a phrase so vague and hollow, it implies that, actually, there is no unifying theme at all. So I suggest we dispense with the marketing spin and treat the perfumes as separate entities.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Chandler Burr's Secret Perfumer Answers Readers' Questions

Image: OpenSky

Those of you who follow Chandler Burr's thought-provoking Untitled Series on OpenSky will no doubt be aware that 'Season 1' has reached its tenth and final episode. In an interesting twist, Burr has arranged for the scent's maker to respond to readers' and buyers' questions about his/her creation. Here's how the whole thing will work: any questions posted on this Basenotes forum thread will be forwarded to the perfumer via Burr; the perfumer's responses will then be published on the forum thread.

Whilst we await the revelation of the perfumer's identity, check out this extract from Burr's description of the scent, as published on OpenSky:

This is one of the greatest Byronesque beauties I’ve ever experienced. Windswept moors, cold rough seas, rocky cliffs tempest tossed, the genre’s entire panoply of tropes with no irony in sight, and yet you buy it, not (not for an instant) despite yourself but with a lifting soul, courage renewed, and a sense of adventure. If Robert Louis Stevenson had done a celebrity scent, this would have been it.

Intrigued? I certainly am.


PS If you'd rather not post your questions in a public setting, you can email them directly to Burr at chandlerburr at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Is That A Bell I Hear?

Some summer reading...

One of those curious little ironies of life: I get tons of ideas for blog posts when I'm in 'no writing allowed' holiday mode. Whilst Madame Persolaise and I were trying to distance ourselves as much as possible from everyday realities, the workaholic side of my brain - which I can never fully switch off - constantly insisted on using a well-cooked meal, or a wander through a cathedral, or the sight of some unfamiliar landscape as inspiration for scent-related musings on this site. Regular readers will know that I didn't give in to these urges. And it's probably just as well that I didn't; I think it's important for breaks from routines to be complete.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Persolaise Review: Made To Measure from Gucci (perfumer unknown; 2013)

I often wonder if some perfume manufacturers enjoy having a laugh at our expense. It's the kind of straw-grasping idea that pops into my head when I try to understand the existence of a scent like Gucci's new Made To Measure. It is so utterly generic, so completely predictable, so resolutely dull that I can't help thinking it could only have been the result of a joke. Maybe it's part of some secret competition to see who can inflict the most boring fragrance upon the mainstream. Perhaps the 'creatives' at Procter & Gamble and Gucci actually enjoy the challenge of trying to convince the world that a masculine scent structure we've all come across countless times before (a 'fresh' citrus top with a synthetically spicy heart and a base of unremarkable ambery woods) is, in fact, original and innovative. I'm probably being far too cynical. Nobody's sense of humour could be that cruel, right? But then... take another look at the name... and feel your heart sink as everything falls into place. Made To Measure is a moniker dripping with quantities of irony vast enough to have caused Shakespeare to gnash his teeth with envy. This stuff is anything but made to measure: it is the very definition of 'one size fits all'. So yes, well done to those folks who will no doubt cackle all the way to the bank after having pulled the wool over the eyes of hapless consumers by spinning some yarn about "judiciously selected ingredients from around the world" and the "Gucci philosophy of attention to detail". I hope they give themselves a hearty pat on the back and tell each other how clever they are. Personally, I don't find this particular joke funny any more. And I certainly don't think this scent measures up in any way whatsoever. Gucci: it's time for you to find a new yardstick.

[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Gucci in 2013.]


Friday, 23 August 2013

Persolaise Review: Eau De Monsieur from Annick Goutal (Annick Goutal / Camille Goutal & Isabelle Doyen; 1980/2013)

Wow! Cover me with slices of lemon and sprinkle me with a pinch of salt. Eau De Monsieur is back. Sadly, I never had a chance to smell the original version of this fizzy, sherbety creation, but I can safely report that this new edition - tweaked by Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen and reminiscent of YSL's Pour Homme - manages to convince the wearer that it's been zapped to 2013 straight from the 70s. With its almost comically yellow, glaringly bright lemon/verbena heart, its sharp, bitter herbal facets and its intriguing saline note (vetivert, perhaps) it harks back to a time when 'clean citrus' meant 'mature gent' in no uncertain terms. As it reaches its drydown, there are moments when its moss element becomes excessively metallic and the detergent-like aspects of its lemon accord make their presence known too frequently. But by and large, this is a solid piece of work whose sunny disposition is hard to resist. If only the mainstream gave men something as radiant as this every now and then.

[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Annick Goutal in 2013.]


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Persolaise Review: Vaara (Bertrand Duchaufour) and Iris Prima (Alberto Morillas) from Penhaligon's (2013)

I worry about reviewing another Bertrand Duchaufour creation almost as much as I worry about reviewing another oud scent. They are both extremely ubiquitous; some would say excessively so. I'm told that oud is on its way out (personally, I don't think the trend is dead quite yet) but thankfully, Duchaufour doesn't seem to be losing any of his creative energy... although it has to be said that his latest effort for Penhaligon's does play a few bars of an Arabian tune at one point in its development.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Persolaise Review: Thirty Three from Ex Idolo (perfumer unknown; 2013)

This was one I approached with dread. "It's an oud," I was told.

'Just kill me now,' I thought to myself.

"It's exceptionally good," they said.

'Please, make it quick,' my brain responded.

"It's been made with an agar wood oil that's been aged for thirty-three years."

'Here, I'll sharpen the blade for you.' But then, the optimist in me defeated the cynic... and thank goodness he did, because this stuff deserves serious attention.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Persolaise Review: Pour Monsieur from Chanel (Henri Robert; 1955)

Is bitterness now seen as old-fashioned in masculine scents? I asked myself the question the other day when I decided to wear Chanel's Pour Monsieur. Don't get me wrong, I still consider it to be a tremendous piece of work. But it did strike me as smelling of the past, and I wondered if this was because of the inky, almost acrid bitterness of the mossy elements. Modern masculines tend to be sweeter (see last year's Noir from Tom Ford, which traces its lineage back to 1965's Habit Rouge) or woodier (see just about any mainstream melange), although of course, if we're being pedantic, we have to point out that both sugariness and woodiness have been features of some male perfumes ever since the 30s, when Caron released Pour Un Homme. Perhaps bitterness is now seen as being too serious, too grown-up, too uncompromising for the modern man. Or maybe, in keeping with the chypre revival in the feminine market, the note will soon make a comeback on the boys' side of perfumery departments. Whatever happens, Pour Monsieur remains one of the classiest male scents around, and a real gem in Chanel's portfolio. The citrus opening is as sophisticated as anything that's ever been bottled, the herbaceous elements suggest a free-spirited love of the natural world, and the powdery, soapy facets of the drydown convey well-groomed civility. It's quiet, restrained and elegant... and even though, on a literal level, it smells bitter, it doesn't have a cynical bone in its lithe body.

[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette obtained in 2010.]


Friday, 9 August 2013

Persolaise Review: Rive D'Ambre, Shanghai Lily, Fleur De Chine and Plum Japonais from Tom Ford (perfumers unknown; 2013)

I confess I don't find the overarching concept of this year's Tom Ford Private Blend quartet as convincing as last year's. In 2012, the house released four scents under the umbrella title Jardin Noir; the idea was simple, but it worked. This latest set has been dubbed the Atelier D'Orient, a name to which you could justifiably react with a yawn. Still, the dubious label is easily ignored, because at least two of the perfumes are pretty impressive.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Persolaise Review: Perfume Calligraphy Rose from Aramis (perfumer unknown; 2013)

When Aramis released their commendable Perfume Calligraphy, I saw the move as an attempt to corner the Arabic sector of the chest-beating, alpha-male, testosterone-fuelled territory the brand has long claimed as its own. So I was quite taken aback when I first tried this new follow-up to the scent. For a composition made by such a manly brand, Perfume Calligraphy Rose is shockingly feminine, a sort of cross between the girly hues of Gorilla Perfume's Imogen Rose and Amouage's Lyric Man. Soft, powdery and, as its name would suggest, almost completely rosy, it marks a welcome attempt to offer guys a composition that isn't a mind-numbing re-hash of the woody, ambery, citrus accords prominent in far too many current masculines. There is a quiet, animalic leather lurking in the background, and the spices bolstering the central floral accord are by no means inconspicuous, but in the main, this is rose all the way, unfurling its charm with the sort of unostentatious confidence younger men now display when they hug each other in public. Well worth embracing!

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Aramis in 2013.]



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