Friday, 7 November 2014

Christmas 2014 Perfume Recommendations - French Kisses, Vintage Handbags & A Great Big Nothing

I can't start thinking about Christmas until we've seen the back of All Saints' Day; any sign of Yuletide shenanigans before then makes my stomach turn. But we are now well and truly into November, which means it's time to start turning our attention to the business of filling the bottle-shaped holes in the lives of our dearest scentusiasts. So pour yourself another glass of mulled wine and feast your eyes on Persolaise's very own perfume recommendations for Christmas 2014.

For a special someone of the female persuasion: Oeillet Bengale from Aedes De Venustas - Just when you thought we'd never have another decent carnation perfume, Rodrigo Flores-Roux comes bearing a bunch of elegant red and white blooms, decorated with spices, incense and a sprinkling of desert sand.

For a special someone of the male persuasion: Bentley For Men Absolute from Bentley - Michel Almairac's re-make of his own, much-missed Gucci Pour Homme is the archetypal male scent: peppery, ambery and laced with enough incense to give the Vatican an inferiority complex. 

For the distinguished older lady: La Panthère extrait from Cartier - I am gardenia, hear me roar. This funky, unabashedly physical release from Mathilde Laurent comes out of left-field and reconfirms Cartier's status as a perfume house worth watching.

For the distinguished older gent: Pour Un Homme from Caron - Still one of the best lavender scents ever made, Ernest Daltroff's Pour Un Homme celebrates its 80th birthday this year, which gives us the perfect excuse - as though we needed any more - to enjoy its easy-natured, wide-eyed optimism.

For the little princess: French Kiss from Guerlain - The 'lipstick accord' has made its way into a few perfumes over the years - Lipstick Rose (Frederic Malle) still takes some beating in this sub-genre - but Thierry Wasser's latest addition to Guerlain's exclusive Elixir Charnel range is well worth checking out. Sweet and chubby like a sugar-plum fairy, it's one of this season's most upbeat releases.

For the little prince: L'Orpheline from Serge Lutens - Young men can sometimes seem so much more fragile than young women. Perhaps that's what Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake had in mind when they put together this heart-breaking, tremulous essay on woods, smoke and herbs. [For an even quieter take on the same idea, check out Phillippe Romano's 11 Semma for Odin.]

For fun: The Library Of Fragrance - Known as Demeter Fragrance Library in North America, this wacky brand has recently re-entered the UK market. Its intention is to recreate - either literally or conceptually - "all the wonderful scents that surround us every day." Some of its attempts are more successful than others. Espresso, Fresh Hay and Incense don't quite hit the mark, but Dirt and Pizza are chuckle-inducingly effective. They're affordable, and I daresay their game-worthiness would probably come in handy during the post-Christmas-lunch lull.  

For no holding back: Rien Intense Incense from Etat Libre D'Orange - Last year I recommended the original Rien in this slot, so now I suppose I have no choice but to go for its marginally less ostentatious, but more focussed uncle. A smoke-snorting beast of a scent, bearing horns made of gigantic leather roses.

For a retro kick: Cuir Cannage from Christian Dior - Composed as an homage to perfumer François Demachy's memory of his mother, Cuir Cannage is a Douglas Sirk movie in a bottle. On the surface, its ylang-ylang facet is well-groomed and pristine. But dig just a little bit deeper, and you'll find a leather heart consumed by a torrent of passion.

For elegance: L'Etrog Acqua from Arquiste - Oh look, it's Rodrigo Flores-Roux again. According to Arquiste's Carlos Huber, the Mexican perfumer took the original L'Etrog, sharpened its citruses, sweetened its smile and turned it into one of the most endearing cologne-like compositions of the year... all for his own personal delectation. Luckily for us, Huber was so taken with his work, that he decided to add it to the Arquiste range.

For utter prettiness: Sylvan Song from Grossmith - If ever a theatre director wanted to scent a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, they'd do well to consider Sylvan Song. A silken, pillowy floral, it's rooted both in the realms of nature and of fantastical imaginings.

For bling: Beautiful solid-perfume ring from Estée Lauder - Sophia Grojsman's full-bodied floral bouquet for Lauder remains one of the brand's finest achievements, and this year, it arrives in the form of a solid scent, housed in an elegant piece of costume jewellery. Ever practical, the Lauder people are selling it with a chain, so that the ring can be worn as a bracelet too.

For trouble: Chaldée from Jean Patou - I fell in love with this the first time I sniffed it, and I'm in love with it still. Thomas Fontaine's reworking of Henri Almeras' 1927 original is a tumble into sinful delights, mixing balsamic, powdery and musky facets with single-minded debauchery. It may be more Valentine's Day than Christmas... but why wait till February? 

For the facial hair aficionado: scented beard oils from Tom Ford - Yes, that's right: scented beard oils! Never one to shy away from a 5 o'clock shadow, Mr Ford has extended his well-regarded male grooming range with this viscous concoction, which supposedly "conditions, nourishes and softens the beard". Available in three fragrances - Neroli Portofino, Oud Wood and Tobacco Vanille - it pushes morning rituals to guilty heights of self-indulgence... especially when it's applied with the Tom Ford beard comb!

For luxury: No 5 bath range from Chanel - My love of No 5 shows no sign of abating. If anything, it's going to grow even deeper this year, now that the brand has released three new products to accompany Ernest Beaux's miracle of sparkling rose and jasmine: a soap, a body cream and a powder. If only they'd re-issue last year's ultra-sensuous bath oil.

For the home: Scented candles work well at any time of year, but they come into their own during the Yuletide season. In 2013, my favourite was Dominique Ropion's Joyeux Noel for Frederic Malle, a mouth-watering, breathtakingly diffusive concoction of sugar-dusted pine. Malle have just announced that the candle will be available again in 2014, so place your order now! Byredo's Cardamome candle - from the seasonal Amber Collection - is very much like the brand's 1996 fragrance. A curious, opaque, wonderfully dense vanilla - topped with spicy citruses - it appears to surround the space around itself with a cocoon of protective warmth. If you're on a more generous budget, consider the ingenious Un Air De Diptyque device. Its electronic diffusion system works a treat (it stops and starts at regular intervals so as to prevent odour habituation), it can be used wirelessly and it makes a very elegant objet. The only downside - apart from the price - is that, since its debut, Diptyque have released only one new scent cartridge for it; at the time of writing, there are 6 in the range.

For a good read: There are three worthwhile titles to choose from this Christmas. Jo Fairley and Lorna McKay's The Perfume Bible is a friendly, entry-level tome, full of appealing illustrations and personal insights from the authors. In Dior: The Perfumes, Chandler Burr takes his 'Art History' approach to fragrance criticism and applies it to the full range of the august brand's scented output. The results are highly readable (if you're interested in a full review, keep an eye out for issue 3 of ODOU magazine). Finally, Roja Dove has completely revamped The Essence Of Perfume. It now contains new photographs, an analysis of several feminine scents which weren't touched on in the first edition and a brief look at a few masculine creations.

Happy shopping,



  1. Very intrigued by the Grossmith Sylvan Song. I shall have to get to Fortnum's soon.


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