Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Best Perfumes Of 2015 - Flankers, Musks & Lots Of Calories

In a year that saw the release of a film about the evils of sugar, mainstream scent compositions seemed to keep getting sweeter and sweeter. Perhaps that's not surprising: I guess if people can't eat the stuff, they want to walk around in a permanent fog of it. Jokes aside, the increased calorie content of our perfumes served as a useful symbol of the fragrance industry's behaviour across the whole of 2015. In a nutshell, it continued to play it safe and pander to the lowest common denominator.

A few other details and near-trends rose up from the sticky syrup of the last 12 months. One of these was the greater prominence of musks in mainstream scents. It goes without saying that they've been present in perfumes for decades (and that, surprise surprise, they're getting more sugary too). However, in several pieces of work (notably Clinique's Aromatics In White) they were pushed to the foreground with an insistence we hadn't seen for a while. In most western cultures their odour profile denotes safety and comfort, so perhaps their heightened presence is an artistic response to a political climate that's even more uncertain than it was a couple of years ago. Having said that, I'd love to know the socio-cultural reason for the interminable (and depressing!) use of synthetic sandalwoods and ambers in so many masculine scents. Maybe that's also about safety: the safety of keeping in with the crowd.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Christmas Wishes 2015

The following is a list of the culinary delights I'm trying to make right now, at the same time: marzipan; cranberry sauce; turkey stock; a Yule log; vodka cheesecake; orange mousse; lemon curd. The result is that things have gone a bit hectic at Cuisine Persolaise... which is why I decided it was time to step away from the action and wish you the very best for the festive season. Peace, happiness and calm kitchens to all! May the festive season be full of joy and laughter for you.

Please do come back on the 30th for my run-down of the best perfumes of the year.


Monday, 21 December 2015

Persolaise Review: Métal Hurlant from Parfumerie Générale (Pierre Guillaume; 2015)

One man's tiger is another man's kitten, so it's with some hesitation that I type the word 'animalic' today. In recent months, it's been used in relation to a few releases (Liquides Imaginaires' Peau De Bête and Escentric Molecule's Kinski come to mind) with a fervour I don't find justifiable. But although I'm well aware that scent criticism becomes even more subjective when it enters the realms of what constitutes chaste or raunchy, it would be churlish of me not to announce that Pierre Guillaume's new Métal Hurlant is one of the most bottom-spankingly naughty scents to have made a pass at my nostrils all year.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Persolaise Review: Sotto La Luna Tuberose from Tauer Perfumes (Andy Tauer; 2015)

Wearing Andy Tauer's Tuberose - the latest addition to his Sotto La Luna range - made me wonder whether his success has, in part, stemmed from his ability to straddle two perfumery worlds. His most endearing creations have managed to take the best from what might loosely be called the realms of niche (largesse, boldness, a certain roughness around the edges) and combine them with features more commonly associated with the mainstream (approachability, wearability, cohesiveness). When he's tipped too far into the former, he's come unstuck, as in the case of the underrated (but, admittedly, challenging) Carillon Pour Un Ange. When he's flirted too freely with the latter (Noontide Petals) he has compromised his identity. His particular skill lies in finding a balance between the safe and the dangerous.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Tauerville Advent 2015 Give-Away Winner

I can't thank you enough for the comments all of you left on yesterday's give-away post. Honestly, if ever I'm feeling down, I shall scroll through your generous, warm-hearted words and realise that things are never as bleak as they seem.

Now, on to the day's main business. According to, the lucky reader is


Congratulations! Please send your postal details and your choice of Flash perfume (Vanilla, Rose, Incense or Amber) to persolaise at gmail dot com.

Commiserations to everyone else. Please do keep visiting Andy's Advent calendar for more opportunities to win.


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Advent 2015 Give-Away - Win A Flash Perfume From Tauerville

We're more than half-way through Advent, which means that those of us who haven't yet ticked off all the names on our gift list had better get a move on. For various personal reasons, the last few months haven't been especially easy at Maison Persolaise, so we're all looking forward to an opportunity to shut the door on the outside world, take our time over a hearty meal and enjoy each other's company. In anticipation of this festive cheer, I'm pleased to host one of Andy Tauer's traditional Advent draws here on once again. This time, the prize is a 30 ml bottle of a Tauerville Flash perfume: the winner will get to choose one from Rose, Amber, Incense and Vanilla.

To enter, please read the terms and conditions below and then leave a comment on the subject of counting our blessings. One line will do. Did anything happen to you in 2015 for which you're particularly grateful? [Please note this draw is open only to readers in the UK, USA, Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria.]

Some of you may be aware that this year, in addition to his prize draws, Andy has marked Advent by making donations to various charities. I'd like to extend the gesture by making a donation to a local hospice - The Rowans Hospice - the staff of which were extremely helpful to my family recently. If you'd like to find out about their work, please click here, and to make a donation to them, please click here.

My thanks to Andy Tauer for including me in his Advent celebrations.


Terms & Conditions

i) the draw will be closed at 6 am (UK time) on Wednesday 16th December; ii) the winner will be selected at random; iii) the winner will be announced on on Wednesday 16th December; iv) if the winner has not made contact with by Monday 21st December, an alternative winner may be selected; v) the winner's address will be shared only with Tauer Perfumes, who will post the prize to the winner; vi) only readers from the United Kingdom, United States Of America, Switzerland, Germany, France & Austria are eligible to enter; vii) by entering this competition, you indicate that you are able to receive alcohol-based perfume products in your country of residence; viii) the prize will be shipped for free from Switzerland; local taxes, VAT and import fees may apply; these will not be covered by Tauer Perfumes; ix) takes no responsibility for the contents of the perfumes, particularly as regards potential allergens and/or harmful components; x) if the prize is lost in transit, it will not be possible for a replacement to be posted; xi) relatives of anyone associated with are not permitted to enter.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Left Pleasantly Unmoved

For the last few days I've been thinking about the d-word. Derivative. It's an issue to consider in the analysis of any creative pursuit. But I'd say it's particularly pressing in perfumery because the distinction between a scent that nudges an idea into novel territory and one which merely re-hashes a concept is so very hazy. What's prompted these musings? Two scents: Larmes Du Désert and Lune Féline from Atelier Des Ors. The first thing that has to be said about them is: stunning packaging. Beautiful, solar-inspired etching in the glass bottles. Elegant art work on the outer boxes. Glittering flakes of gold leaf (yes, you read that right) floating in the juice. An absolute must-see.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Persolaise Review: Black Orchid eau de toilette from Tom Ford (2015)

I've always been suspicious of Black Orchid. Something about its strident assertiveness - its poking, prodding, finger-stabbing insistence - has made me feel that its facade conceals a quagmire of insecurities. It is so determined to appear confident that surely, I've thought, it must be anything but. In olfactory terms, I'd say this low self-esteem manifests itself in the paint-stripping berry/currant note running behind the don't-mess-with-me patchouli, chocolate and white florals. Try as hard as they might, those heavy-hitters can't entirely divert attention away from the thinness of the fruit aspects, with the result that the Miranda Priestly demeanour never quite rings true. Thankfully, 9 years after it was released - during which time it has consistently been Tom Ford's bestseller - Black Orchid has learned to relax and stop trying so hard: it now comes to us in eau de toilette form, free of some of the neediness that made the eau de parfum such trying company. In essence, it is the same perfume, but more translucent, limpid and vaporous than the original, in keeping with what one would expect from an edt concentration. That said, it doesn't seem to be any less long-lasting - a noteworthy technical achievement, if nothing else - and it even permits its inscrutability to crack into a faint smile at a few stages in its development. So yes, I confess, I am more pleasantly disposed towards this new incarnation... but I still can't shake off the feeling that it's a deceptive beast. My suspicions remain.

[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Tom Ford in 2015.]


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Perfume Mini-Reviews From Twitter - July to September 2015 [part 2]

Here's part 2 of my latest round-up of Twitter mini reviews.

Aqua Divina from Bulgari (Alberto Morillas; 2015)*
Intriguing, weirdly nutty, earthy composition. Burnt, yet quiet. Grated, rather than powdery. Fine particles on skin.

For Her L'Absolu from Narciso Rodriguez (Aurélien Guichard; 2015)*
Skin-hugging musks of original, lifted by diffusive jasmine & tuberose. Strong addition to the range.

Acqua Di Bergamotto from Ermenegildo Zegna (2015)*
Commendable descendant of Mugler Cologne. Decent citrus note. Backdrop of steamy, salty musks. Suitably summery.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Friday, 4 December 2015

Persolaise Review: Perfume - A Century Of Scents by Lizzie Ostrom (Hutchinson; 2015)

Perfume is more than a smell. That's the premise of the wonderful new book by Lizzie Ostrom, the unashamed scent aficionado whose alter ego, Odette Toilette, has provided London with some of the most thought-provoking and memorable fragrance-related events of recent years. Descriptions of smells do feature in her book. Of course they do; it would be strange if they didn't. But A Century Of Scents eschews the merit-assessing agenda of the Turin & Sanchez A-Z Guide and the 'documentary narrative' approach of the two Chandler Burr tomes in favour of cultural commentary. In Ostrom's hands - or should that be nose? - perfume is a mirror of its times: sometimes faithful; sometimes deliberately contrary; always worth peering into.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Could This Be The Best Perfume Gift EVER?

Here's an idea. If someone says they'd like you to buy them a bottle of perfume for Christmas, then don't. At least not straight away. Do something different. Tell them you'd be glad to give them a fragrance, but on one condition: that 'the gift' is turned into an outing in which the two of you embark on a sniff-a-thon, resulting in a scent purchase. The reason for this elaborate escapade? Simple. It's to avoid that inevitable yuletide phenomenon: the unwanted perfume. You know the one I mean. The one that you accepted with a marble smile, wore once and then banished to the darkest realms of the back of the bottom drawer.

But how, I hear you ask, does one take a friend or family member on such an expedition? Well, I'm glad you asked that, because it just so happens that I've got a handy 7-step guide for you right here...

Monday, 30 November 2015

Death Of A Princess - Guerlain Discontinue Nahéma Parfum

In my stockpile of half-written articles and abandoned projects - otherwise known as my blog's 'drafts' folder - one idea has been nagging at me for years, refusing to be silent. It's popped up to haunt me every now and then, expressed in a simple line: "The scent of the house after Madame Persolaise has sprayed Nahéma." Each time I've seen it, I've told myself that I ought to give it the attention it deserves. But I've always been side-tracked. And now, in a sense, it's too late, because Guerlain recently announced that the fragrance's extrait version, which many consider to be amongst the most glorious olfactory creations of all time, is about to be discontinued.

The 2015 Persolaise Christmas Gift Guide

This year, I'm turning to social media for my annual thoughts on how best to indulge in the consumerist orgy that is Christmas. I'm posting individual recommendations on Twitter, marked with a #PersolaiseXmas tag. Once they've all appeared, I'll do my best to use Storify to present a handy summary here on Until then, please scroll through the Twitter feed below.

Happy shopping! Oh, and do come back tomorrow for what could well be the best perfume gift ever...

Friday, 27 November 2015

A Clear View Of The Future - Bringing Perfume Back To Life In Grasse

Normally, the appearance of a stain on my jacket is a cause for mild panic. It leads to a frantic search for paper napkins. A hunt for water. Gravity-defying contortions in front of the dryer in a public toilet. But this is one stain I don't want to remove. In fact, I hope it never disappears, because - and I write this without exaggeration - it's projecting one of the most heartbreaking scents I have encountered for a long time.

This drop of liquid alchemy - spreading its amber hue through the linen threads - found its way onto my person by way of a slim blotter which I had tucked into my breast pocket. It met the blotter inside a large, unprepossessing aluminium canister. And it reached the canister after being extracted from thousands of rose petals which had, for a time, coloured a field somewhere on the hilly landscape of Grasse. It smells of unadulterated beauty; that almost goes without saying. Creamy. Honeyed. Buttery. Jammy. Slightly peppery. What's more important though, is that it marks the progress of a quiet renaissance in the corner of southern France which brought it to life.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

"A Little Italian Girl From Brooklyn" - An Exclusive Interview With Estée Lauder's Karyn Khoury [part 2]

Karyn Khoury and Leonard Lauder
at the 2012 USA FiFi Awards

In last week's instalment of my chat with Estée Lauder's Karyn Khoury (please click here to read it), the esteemed creative director wandered down memory lane and shared stories about her work with Mrs Lauder. Towards the end of our conversation - which marked the first time she had granted an interview to a UK-based blogger - we turned our attention to more recent events and to the future...

Persolaise: What makes an Estée Lauder perfume an Estée Lauder perfume?

Karyn Khoury: Luxury. Signature. Estée Lauder fragrances have a personality. Estée believed fragrance has to say something. It has to convey, evoke and express something. And it has to do it right away, because nobody's going to wait 25 minutes for a message. I don't look at my competition as all the other fragrance companies. I never have. I understand and I appreciate the strength of my competitors. But my competition is anything else that a woman has to give up in order to buy my fragrance. So in today's day and age, if she buys one of my fragrances, chances are maybe she's not buying a blouse for herself, or she's not going out to lunch. What that translates to is: every aspect of that fragrance has to be sensorially and emotionally rewarding to her. So the fragrance has to be an entity that continues to delight her, that continues to make her feel fabulous every time she wears it.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Perfume Mini-Reviews From Twitter - July to September 2015 [part 1]

It's that time again: another round-up of my Twitter mini-reviews, covering the period July to September 2015.

Ultra Male from Jean-Paul Gaultier (Francis Kurkdjian; 2015)*
An interesting, edible lavender, with pronounced caramel notes. The fougère enters gourmand territory.

Trésor L'Absolu from Lancôme (2013)**
Sweeter, denser, less dramatic than original. But still, an appealing, musky rose, heavy on vanilla.

Acqua Di Giò Profumo from Armani (Alberto Morillas; 2015)**
Cucumber freshness over heavy musk base to make it last longer. No effervescence. No sunshine. No zest.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Live Stream Of Frederic Malle, Carlos Benaïm Lecture

On Thursday 19th November, Harvard's Graduate School Of Design will present a live stream of a lecture by Frederic Malle and Carlos Benaïm. According to the official blurb, the lecture will focus on design as well Malle's perfumes and their histories. It's scheduled to start at 6:30 pm Eastern Standard Time, which, unless I'm mistaken, will be 11:30 pm UK time. To watch the live stream, please click here. The university's website indicates that the lecture may then be available on YouTube.  


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

"When I Fell In Love With The Company" - An Exclusive Interview With Estée Lauder's Karyn Khoury [part 1]

After I put away the trappings of my Twenty Blotters game (click here to see what I'm talking about) I continued my conversation with Estée Lauder's highly-respected creative director, Karyn Khoury, by picking up on a statement she made about the importance of giving perfumers recognition for their work. How does she reconcile this policy, I asked her, with the fact that the Lauder PR machine tends to be fairly reticent - if not downright opaque - about the identity of the people who make not just their scents, but also those for the other brands within the company, such as Tom Ford, Michael Kors and DKNY?

Friday, 13 November 2015

Persolaise Review: Ryder from Ex Idolo (2015)

Indie scent creations tend to be either reactionary monsters or paeans to the past (or both, come to think of it). Ryder, the latest from Matthew Zhuk's UK brand, Ex Idolo, falls into the latter category, in the sense that it reinvents nothing, but it does offer the satisfaction that can be derived from seeing an excellent idea being executed well. In this case, the idea is a classic amber: resinous, vanillic and smoky. And the execution is mostly faultless, with touches of hay, tobacco and spices to add hints of 'lift' at the top without detracting from the drydown-focussed intentions of the whole; this stuff has a low centre of gravity and it means you to know it. Up close, there's an off-putting, cardboard-like note with a synthetic edge which elicits a sneer and spoils the overall balance. But reservations notwithstanding, Ryder suggests that the brand's debut, Thirty Three, was no fluke. Akin to a sheen on a plane of polished wood, it is both pleasant to behold and easy to relegate to the background, attributes which are, at times, the very qualities one requires from a scent. That said, I do hope Zhuk gives us something a touch more exciting next time.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Ex Idolo in 2015.]


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Twenty Blotters For... Karyn Khoury

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

You may not know her name, but I'm pretty sure you know her work. Here's a list for you. Estée Lauder's Beautiful, Pleasures, Beyond Paradise, Sensuous and Knowing. Prescriptives' Calyx. Tom Ford's Private Blends. All of those perfumes - and many, many others - owe their existence, at least in part, to Karyn Khoury. As a creative director at the Lauder group (her official title is Senior Vice President of Corporate Fragrance Development Worldwide) she has played a key role in the conception and construction of several undisputed American classics, with the result that she's now something of a living legend in the industry. Her career - which began in the late 70s at an olfactory materials production company - has seen her collaborating with some of the most renowned perfumers of the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as Mrs Estée Lauder herself, and various other members of the Lauder family, including Evelyn and Aerin. In short, she is a treasure trove of knowledge and experience.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Persolaise Review: Habit Rouge Dress Code from Guerlain (Thierry Wasser; 2015)

Thierry Wasser has had the thankless task of creating flankers for classics such as Shalimar, L'Heure Bleue and Habit Rouge (could any other perfumery endeavour be more worthy of the term 'putting your neck on the chopping block'?) and now he turns to the latter again with the creation of Habit Rouge Dress Code, released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jean-Paul Guerlain's towering masculine. As a flag-waving HR acolyte, I confess I was wary of this new iteration, and whilst I can't say that it has it persuaded me to ditch my bottles of the eau de toilette - which probably wasn't Wasser's intention anyway - I'm pleased to report that I've enjoyed exploring the new chapter it adds to one of my favourite scented stories.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Century Of Scents Instagram Winner

Once again, heartfelt thanks to each and every person who entered my Century Of Scents draw over on Instagram. The winner is:


Congratulations! Please send your postal details to persolaise at gmail dot com and I'll forward them to Lizzie Ostrom. Commiserations to everyone else.

I'd like to thank Lizzie and Hutchinson for making these draws possible.

In a few days - either at the end of this week or the start of the next - I'll be holding another Instagram competition, this time for 5 VIP subscriptions to The Perfume Society. In the meantime, I shall try to resume normal service here on There are still lots of things I'd like to squeeze in before Christmas, including a review of a wonderful release from Guerlain, an account of a brief chat with Dominique Ropion and an extended interview with one of the most important figures in American perfumery. Any guesses?


Monday, 2 November 2015

Century Of Scents Twitter Winner AND Final Give-Away

illustrations: Cynthia Kittler

Many thanks to everybody who entered my Twitter give-away for a signed copy of Lizzie Ostrom's A Century Of Scents. Drum roll please... the winner is


Congratulations! Please send your postal details to persolaise at gmail dot com and I'll forward them to Lizzie.

It feels like I've been doing nothing but competitions for the last few days, but the fun isn't over yet, because I still have one signed copy of Lizzie's book to give-away. This time, the site of our competition will be Instagram. To enter the draw, you need to

- go to my Instagram page (click here)
- find the relevant competition photo
- 'like' it
- make sure you're following me on Instagram
-make sure you're following Odette Toilette on Instagram (click here for her page)

The winner will be selected at random from all eligible 'likes'.

Please read the Terms & Conditions below. The competition closes at 6 am (UK time) on Tuesday 3rd November. And towards the end of the week, I'll be holding yet another draw, this time for 5 VIP subscriptions to the Perfume Society. Stay tuned!


Terms & Conditions

i) the draw will be closed at 6 am (UK time) on Tuesday 3rd November; ii) the winner will be selected at random from all eligible Instagram 'likes', as per the instructions above; iii) the winner will be announced on on Tuesday 3rd November; iv) if the winner has not made contact with by Monday 9th November, an alternative winner may be selected; v) the winner's address will be shared only with Lizzie Ostrom and Hutchinson, who will post the prize to the winner; vi) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter; vii) by entering this draw, you indicate that you are able to receive books posted from the United Kingdom; viii) takes no responsibility for the prize and its contents; ix) relatives of anyone associated with are not permitted to enter.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Century Of Scents Winner AND New Give-Away

Massive thanks to everyone who entered my recent draw for a signed copy of the new book by Lizzie Ostrom, Perfume: A Century Of Scents (published by Hutchinson). The oracle of has been consulted and I'm pleased to announce that the winner is


Congratulations! Please send your postal details to persolaise at gmail dot com and I'll forward them to Lizzie.

The rest of you needn't despair quite yet, because you may remember that I said I have two more signed copies to give away. For the next draw, we're heading over to Twitter. To enter, you need to 

post a tweet tagging @Persolaise @OdetteToilette
and include the hashtag #winlizziesbook.

The winner will be selected at random from all eligible tweets. 

Please do take the time to read the Terms & Conditions below. The competition closes at 10 pm (UK time) on Saturday 31st October. Early next week, I'll hold the third and final draw.

Good luck!


Terms & Conditions

i) the draw will be closed at 10 pm (UK time) on Saturday 31st October; ii) the winner will be selected at random from all eligible tweets, as per the instructions above; iii) the winner will be announced on on Monday 2nd November; iv) if the winner has not made contact with by Saturday 7th November, an alternative winner may be selected; v) the winner's address will be shared only with Lizzie Ostrom and Hutchinson, who will post the prize to the winner; vi) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter; vii) by entering this draw, you indicate that you are able to receive books posted from the United Kingdom; viii) takes no responsibility for the prize and its contents; ix) relatives of anyone associated with are not permitted to enter.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Give-Away: Win A Signed Copy Of Lizzie Ostrom's Perfume - A Century Of Scents

The arrival of any perfume book is an exciting prospect, as there are so few around. But this year, the pre-Christmas season brings us a particularly enticing treat in the shape of a tome by none other than Lizzie Ostrom, aka Odette Toilette, one of the most intelligent, vivacious and respected figures on the UK's scent scene. Perfume: A Century Of Scents (published by Hutchinson) is a decade-by-decade examination of our complicated relationship with fragrance, using many key creations (including Mitsouko, Diorissimo and Kouros) as spring boards from which to launch into absorbing musings about the forces that have shaped western culture over the last 100 years. I hope to review it in greater depth soon - time and day job permitting - but for now, suffice it to say that it is a must-read, not least because it provides a delicious opportunity to enjoy Ostrom's witty, cliche-free prose style.

I am delighted to announce that I've got 3 signed copies of the book to give away. But instead of dishing out all of them in one go, I'm going to drag the process out a little bit... just to keep your appetites sharp. Today, I'm starting a draw here on Persolaise for one of the copies. To enter, please read the Terms & Conditions below and leave a comment on this post on the subject of perfume in books, films or music. Anything that comes to mind. Don't feel you have to write at great length. A few words will do.

When I announce the winner of this draw, I'll reveal info about how you can win the other 2 copies.

Good luck to one and all!


Terms & Conditions

i) the draw will be closed at 10 pm (UK time) on Thursday 29th October; ii) the winner will be selected at random; iii) the winner will be announced on on Friday 30th October; iv) if the winner has not made contact with by Monday 2nd November, an alternative winner may be selected; v) the winner's address will be shared only with Lizzie Ostrom and Hutchinson, who will post the prize to the winner; vi) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter; vii) by entering this draw, you indicate that you are able to receive books posted from the United Kingdom; viii) takes no responsibility for the prize and its contents; ix) relatives of anyone associated with are not permitted to enter.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Persolaise Review: 1 Million Cologne from Paco Rabanne (Olivier Pescheux & Michel Girard; 2015)

I have written precisely nothing about the commercial phenomenon that is Paco Rabanne's 1 Million, but the arrival of this new 'Cologne' version provides an opportunity to make amends. I can't quite believe that 7 years have passed since the original fragrance hit the high street, but it's true: the year was 2008 when we were first invaded by that now all-too-familiar leathery, spicy, apple-sheesha accord over an amber base. For some reason (the advertising? the bling bottle? the name?) people went bananas about the stuff, to the extent that it has become one of the best selling masculines of all time. Young bucks eager to indicate that they'd graduated from the realms of cheap body sprays bathed themselves in it with a fervour the previous generation had reserved for Gaultier's Le Male. The objects of their predatory affections swooned with how 'grown up' the scent seemed to be. Needless to say, several flankers - and even a feminine counterpart - soon followed.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Do You Want To Help Create A Perfume? - Jazmin Saraï On Indiegogo

Some of you may remember that last year, I interviewed Dana El Masri about her Montreal-based perfume brand, Jazmin Saraï. She has just launched an Indiegogo campaign to help her fund her next fragrance project: please check it out and consider supporting it. El Masri's work struck me with its balance and careful attention to detail, so I hope she receives the support she needs to continue developing her talent. Please click here to be taken to her Indiegogo page.


PS Come back in a few days for your chance to win a signed copy of one of the most exciting perfume book releases of recent years: Lizzie Ostrom's Perfume: A Century Of Scents.

Winners Of Perfume Society VIP Subscription

Many thanks to everyone who entered the draw for a VIP subscription to the Perfume Society. The winners are:

Joanne Delaney
Olfa Labs

Please send your address to persolaise at gmail dot com and I'll forward it to the Perfume Society.

Please check back in a few days for your chance to win a signed copy of the brand new book by Lizzie Ostrom (aka Odette Toilette): Perfume - A Century Of Scents.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Win VIP Subscription To The Perfume Society + Interview With Co-Founder Jo Fairley

When the UK's Perfume Society emerged last year, everyone in the 'fragrance community' - if there is such a thing - had an opinion about it. Some felt it was a welcome force that would help bind all the disparate, scent-loving cliques out there. Others complained that it was little more than a coat-tail-rider, forcing its way into territories successfully occupied by other players for years. Its lasting impact has yet to be determined; after all, it hasn't been with us very long. But there's no question that it is now much more than just a blip on our olfactory radars.

Its founders, Jo Fairley and Lorna McKay, have successfully staged a series of well-regarded perfume events, featuring the likes of Thierry Wasser, Luca Turin and a travelling version of the Osmothèque. They have assembled several issues of an award-winning magazine, The Scented Letter, which has grown from a digital-only format to being available in print. And they have enabled their members to share their passion for the fragrant world by curating several Discovery Boxes containing samples, blotters and aids to what one might call 'intelligent sniffing'. In other words, they've been busy.

They have also offered Persolaise readers a chance to win a 1-year VIP subscription to their services (see below for details) so I decided it was time I tried to find out what makes them tick. To this end, I arranged an interview with Jo Fairley, a lifelong fragrance aficionado whose name has been synonymous with scent-related prose for years. As a Jasmine-winning writer, businesswoman and public speaker, she has raised the profile of perfume in the UK (and beyond) in a manner which few others could hope to emulate. So perhaps it was inevitable that one day, she would co-create a means for like-minded scentusiasts to enjoy and deepen their interest together. It was with the subject of creation that I began our conversation: over a cup of tea at Fenwick on Bond Street, I asked how the Perfume Society came into being.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Super Scent - The Very Best Of Christian Dior

This wasn't just difficult. It was excruciating. In fact, no, it wasn't just excruciating. It was like being in the dentist's chair, thirty minutes into a root canal treatment, with the sound of the drill bouncing off the walls, when all of a sudden, with no warning, the anaesthetic decides to wear off. And trust me: I speak from experience.

When the Candy Perfume Boy and I decided to turn our Super Scent spotlight onto Christian Dior, we both knew that picking our favourites from the brand's sizeable current line-up would be a challenge. That's partly why we decided to make today's list a Top 7 rather than a Top 5. However, I absolutely did not expect the task to cause such agonising inner conflict. As I struggled with the list, going from one draft to another, there were many occasions when my perfume geekery - normally a source of great fun - transformed into torture of near-medieval brutality. But time kept ticking and our self-imposed deadline kept looming closer and closer, so eventually, the doubts and deliberations had to be pushed aside.

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Return Of Super Scent

Some of you may remember that in July, the Candy Perfume Boy and I started a joint project called Super Scent. I'm pleased to announce that the next instalment of the series will be published on Monday 19th October at 12:30 pm UK time. Its focus will be one of the biggest brands in perfumery; indeed, it may well be the first brand that comes to many people's minds when their thoughts turn to the subject of scent. I'm also very excited by the fact that, on this occasion, CPB and I will be joined by Basenotes, who will be presenting their own twist on the Super Scent concept.

A brief recap of precisely what that concept is:

- come up with a list of the best perfumes from a particular brand's current line-up (ie no discontinued scents)
- ensure the list is based on the perfumes' current formulations
- don't share the list with anybody else until it's published

I do hope you'll all come back on Monday for the revelation!


Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Connecting With Ancestors

We've been seeking comfort lately. At Maison Persolaise, that means candles. I've often wondered why such a simple object should be as soothing as it is. How does a single flame possess such power? It's small and faltering, yet also hypnotic enough to act as a focal point for a vast space. Is its magnetism somehow related to connecting with ancestors... some kind of buried, tribe-memory of huddling in a cave, trying to draw warmth from a torch? Whatever the cause of the attraction, after one of my recent gardening forays, I lit the new Tuberose candle from Robbie Honey. As far as floral notes go, tuberose is tricky to handle: it mustn't be permitted to grow too sharp a set of fangs or to descend into juvenile giggles. The perfumer who put together this particular scent for Honey - I'm afraid I don't know who it is - got the balance right: the smell hovering around the flame is creamy, but undeniably witchy. I've also enjoyed the brand's Muguet Des Bois. Creating a convincing lily of the valley note for a fine fragrance is near-impossible at the moment, which is why an above-par candle featuring the flower is such a welcome prospect. This one's a delight. Woody, sweet, green, tender... and yes, comforting.

[Samples of candles provided by Robbie Honey.]


Friday, 9 October 2015

Persolaise Review: Madagascan Jasmine from Grandiflora (Michel Roudnitska; 2015)

He may not be prolific, but Michel Roudnitska must surely be one of the most fearless perfumers working today. With an apparent disdain for the path of least resistance, he pushes his finest work into that thrilling zone of fragrance creation where success and failure are divided by a line as thin, weightless and translucent as a soap bubble. His best scents teeter on the edge of that boundary, forever threatening to collapse, knowing full well that their precariousness is precisely what makes them so compelling.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Christopher Chong Lecture In Cambridge

image: Kevin Jaako

Here's something that doesn't happen every day: Amouage's Creative Director, Christopher Chong, will be delivering a lecture on perfume in Cambridge on Wednesday 28th October. The event will be part of Cambridge Uni's Festival Of Ideas. According to the official blurb, the talk will focus on the approaches Chong has taken to inject a more globalist philosophy into his brand:

When Chong was offered the position of Creative Director of Amouage, a perfume house originating from Oman, he was asked to turn the perfume house into an international brand to compete with the major western brands. Due to cultural sensitivities in the Middle East Chong took an unorthodox direction in recreating a perfume brand that is both acceptable in the region and directional in the western markets by adapting the heritage of storytelling. To avoid stereotyping he re-interpreted the form with an intertextual context drawing from inspirational sources as diverse as western opera and literature, current events and most recently, Chinese cinema.

It promises to be an interesting session... which is why I'm annoyed about the fact that I can't attend. If you'd like to go along, please click here for more details.


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Shade Of Green

Not an accurate representation of Jardin Persolaise

From shed to lawnmower to compost bin to hanging baskets and back to shed again. Gardening has been the theme creeping through many of the last few days. It's my own fault. There is no shade of green to by found on any of my fingers, which is why the various jobs that need doing keep getting put off, until they cannot be avoided any longer and consequently require several days to sort out. Cue: angst, acrimony and an aching back. Mind you, one of the missions I had to accomplish turned out to be more therapeutic than I'd expected. In an effort to control the weeds, I covered our plant beds with a healthy layer of B&Q's finest wood chips... and their smell was enough to transport me away from my self-pity. I have no idea which trees had been used for the chips, but I'm sure there was something piney and eucalyptus-like in there. I was tempted to save some of it, douse it with frankincense oil and turn it into pot-pourri. But I took the easier way out and ended the day with a spray of Serge Lutens' forest-filled Fille En Aiguilles. It provided a more-than-passable approximation of the stuff in my garden. Who knows? Maybe Christopher Sheldrake was elbow-deep in wood chips when he made it...


PS If you're in the London area this Saturday and you fancy a perfume outing, check out this post.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Persolaise At You Magazine Big Beauty Weekend

I'm extremely excited to announce that on Saturday 10th October, I'll be taking part in You Magazine's Big Beauty Weekend in London: Jo Fairley will be chatting to me about my thoughts on some of Estée Lauder's iconic fragrance creations. I believe a few tickets are still available for the event - which includes several other talks and workshops - so if you'd like to learn more, please click here.


Friday, 2 October 2015

Lutens Keep Playing

...continued from yesterday's post (click here to be taken to it)

The latest entries from some of the more bling-tastic brands haven't registered on my fragrance radar. I have sniffed the odd Clive Christian and Xerjoff, but I've rarely been moved to think about them for very long, let alone commit my musings to this site. But Lutens keeps playing on my mind. Maybe it's because there's something about the Section D'Or range which I find disappointing. I don't mean the scents themselves, but the fact that, with their release, the brand has upped the ante to an alarming degree. We all know that perfume houses aren't charities, but as far as business moves go, this one seems especially cynical and mercenary, not least because it comes from an organisation which, historically, has paid considerable attention to exploring and furthering the art of perfumery.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Getting A Masterpiece

Bulgari's Le Gemme Orientali

Perfume prices continue to leap with a vigour that's normally the preserve of Olympic athletes. Last year, Serge Lutens made a brave jump with the first of their Section D'Or releases, L'Incendiaire (UK price: £380 for 50 ml of extrait). This year, as many of you will be aware, the brand has added 5 new compositions to the range, with prices ranging from £425 (for Cannibale, a traditional, spicy leather) to £525 (for Cracheuse De Flammes). Bulgari have extended their set of Le Gemme scents with a trio they're labelling Le Gemme Orientali. Each one will set you back £231 for 100 ml of eau de parfum. Amouage's prices are reaching ever closer to the tops of those Scheherazade minarets. As a reader pointed out on this site, Sunshine Man is £255 for 100 ml of edp. It's not that long ago that the price of the brand's Library Collection (around the £200 mark) was enough to cause scentusiasts to think about remortgaging their houses. And of course, the likes of Roja Parfums, Clive Christian and Xerjoff continue to charge £400 and above for some of their latest releases.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Making Wasabi - An Interview With Céline Verleure Of Olfactive Studio

Regular readers will be aware that Olfactive Studio's Panorama is without question one of my favourite perfume releases of the year so far. With its juxtaposition of a laser-charged, green wasabi note and a contemplative myrrh drydown, it has enthralled me from the moment I first encountered it. Eager to find out more about its creation, I contacted the brand's founder, Céline Verleure, with a few questions, which, I'm pleased to say, she agreed to answer via email. I started by asking her what came first with Panorama: the idea for a 'wild urban' scent or the Miguel Sandinha photograph which accompanies the perfume (see below).

Céline Verleure: The idea of the photo with a jungle came first. Then I found a photo in the right place, but could not get the rights to it. We decided to fly to Los Angeles for 2 days with a French photographer to shoot this picture and decided to focus more on the view than on the house, and we named it Panorama. The wasabi wild scent idea came in parallel with the jungle picture.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Persolaise Review: Florabellio from Diptyque (Fabrice Pellegrin; 2015)

How thrilling it is when an idea manages to survive the journey from thought to creation. At the London launch of Florabellio, perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin explained that the vision he'd hoped to convey with the fragrance was of an inward-looking setting nuzzled by a broader landscape. He decided that coffee and roasted sesame seeds would represent the domestic, urban realm: warm and cocoon-like, but also self-centred. He wanted an apple blossom note to act as the bridge between the core and the periphery, setting off the fruit's inviting sweetness against the bitterness of the coffee. And finally, he determined that the expansiveness of the world beyond would appear in the form of an anisic marine facet, created through the use of sea fennel. Well, I'm pleased to report that Florabellio fulfils all his intentions to a commendable degree. It glows with comforting heat, yet it's bracing. It delves into a private enclosure even whilst reaching across distances. And it has room in its rustic environment for a suggestion of the metropolitan. It doesn't quite keep up the charm through to the end - its drydown succumbs to a chilly thinness - but I'm willing to forgive its shortcomings for the enjoyment of its opening stages. As is the case with Diptyque's best compositions, Florabellio presents a swooning, impressionistic portrait of a romantic locale and - with that magic peculiar to perfumery - makes you want to jump on the next flight to a breakfast on a sunny patio somewhere. It's just a shame the bottle doesn't come with plane tickets.

[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Diptyque in 2015.]


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Try To Negotiate

There's lots and lots to do whilst life and I try to negotiate the most pain-free way of slipping back into regular routines. For one thing, I seem to have accumulated quite a few interviews which need transcribing or whipping into shape. There's one with Olfactive Studio's Céline Verleure in which she provides insights into the creation of Panorama, without doubt one of my favourite scents of the summer. Then there's a fairly recent chat with Rodrigo Flores-Roux, in which he offered a characteristically precise explanation of what he sees as the stylistic differences between niche and mainstream creations. And finally, I must let you all read a brief conversation I had with Dominique Ropion, not least because he revealed exactly how much oud he poured into Frederic Malle's chokingly expensive The Night. Time to get typing, I think...


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

A Perfume Explosion At London's Burlington Arcade

It's all happening at Burlington Arcade! Penhaligon's have had a branch there for years, of course, but Chanel unveiled a store beneath the elegant, arched ceiling not too long ago, Frederic Malle's boutique began trading in August (although I should point out that it hasn't had its official opening yet) and now, Roja Parfums have joined the gang, with a teaser proclaiming the imminent arrival of their first London store. Before too long, passersby will find it impossible to distinguish the smell of the fragrances from that of the Laduree macarons. The revival of the one-brand shop is an intriguing trend. A few days ago, I was interviewing Rodrigo Flores-Roux at the launch of the new Dark Rebel from John Varvatos, and he informed me that pre-WWII Paris was home to no fewer than 600 perfumeries, most of which were single-brand establishments. At a time when ordering scents online has become a matter of course for many people, some fragrance houses seem to have decided - unsurprisingly - that their unique selling point will be the In-Store Experience. It'll be interesting to see if the move pays off.


PS For a telling addition to the Burlington Arcade story, please click here.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Persolaise Review: Sunshine Man from Amouage (Pierre Negrin & Fabrice Pellegrin; 2015)

Ah, dear old lavender. When it's misused - as it so often is - it's a whopping clanger of a cliche, plunging a composition into the depths of the generic, be that 'generic fresh', 'generic man' or, dare I say it, 'generic old lady'. But when it's handled by experts, it is the scent equivalent of light, pushing aside all dejection like a hand parting a curtain on a vivid Sunday morning, filling a room with dawn optimism. It's safe to assume that Amouage's Creative Director, Christopher Chong, agrees with my view on the material, as he has chosen to give it prominence in a scent called, appropriately enough, Sunshine. Assembled by Pierre Negrin and Fabrice Pellegrin, the perfume takes Provence's most tourist-friendly export, attaches it to the burnt, maple syrup stickiness of immortelle (shades of Dior's Eau Noire), places it over solid woods and sprinkles the lot with more pepper than I've seen used in a fragrance for many a year. The result is an irrepressibly joyful, modern fougère, and - with its spicy-sweet core - one of the most interesting olfactory statements on 21st century masculinity since Dominique Ropion's Geranium Pour Monsieur for Frederic Malle. A luminous, life-affirming delight!

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Amouage in 2015]


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Rising Notes

Perfume and death. Connections between the two have been made for centuries. Roses are snuffed out so their essence may be captured. White flowers reveal their most seductive odours just at the point of decay. Incense is carried to the sky by the rising notes of a requiem. But maybe the links run deeper still. Maybe perfume itself - as an idea, an invention, a construct - is an expression of mortality. It bursts into life. It settles. And then it fades, despite all our attempts to keep it alive. Maybe perfume is a scented version of a sand mandala: created only to vanish. Maybe part of its purpose is to perish.  Of course, one heart-breaking consequence of this link between scent and the underworld is that the former has the power to grant us a glimpse into the latter. Smells revive the dead, albeit briefly. And a few days ago, when all our hopes and wishes and vigils ended in the inevitable, a new perfume joined Poison and Fidji in my personal lexicon of the departed: Eau Sauvage. From this point onwards, treasuring a bottle of it will be as important as hanging on to every single memory of the man who loved wearing it.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

Persolaise Review: Nanban from Arquiste (Rodrigo Flores-Roux; 2015)

After a side-step that saw him produce two scents in collaboration with J Crew, Arquiste's Carlos Huber returns to his signature range and quells fears that his sensibilities may have been growing too mainstream with the release of Nanban* (composed by Rodrigo Flores-Roux). Nocturnal, tempestuous and grandiose, it's inspired by a period in Japan's 17th century history when the country sealed itself off from the outside world, suspicious of the work of foreign missionaries. Not long before this self-imposed isolation, a Japanese galleon returned to its home, bearing contents that Flores-Roux, hundreds of years later, has used as a blueprint for Nanban's olfactory details.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Sweet Crust

Health & Safety be damned. The other day, I went to our local hospital to visit the ailing relative I mentioned in a recent post, bearing food for various family members who'd been keeping vigil for hours. In my stash of goodies were a couple of Waitrose crème brûlées, of the sort that come with sachets of brown sugar to sprinkle on top and caramelise. When I bought them, I told myself that, on this occasion, the hungry would probably have to go without the sweet crust. But then I decided that hospital or no hospital, crème brûlée isn't crème brûlée without its candied shell... so I crept onto the ward carrying a concealed blowtorch! I'd never realised how much smoke is produced by burning sugar. But fear not: with a good deal of strategic fanning, we ensured the fire alarms weren't set off. The naughtiness was worth it. For one thing, it made us chuckle. For another, it filled the room with the nutty, warm, childhood scent of caramel. The aroma hung above us, and for a minute or two, some sense of normality was restored.


PS Do check back tomorrow for my review of Nanban, the latest release from Arquiste, which will be showcased by the brand at Florence's Pitti exhibition, commencing on Friday.

The 500 Greatest Modern Perfumes On Basenotes

Oh my goodness! Geek fest! Look at what Basenotes are doing. To celebrate their 15th anniversary, they've compiled a list of the "greatest perfumes" - as per various criteria described on the site - released since 2000. As I type these words, numbers 500 to 480 have been revealed... and several wonderful surprises have already popped up, including the appearance of Neela Vermeire's masterful Trayee (composed by Bertrand Duchaufour) at number 498. Early indications are that the final list will form a fascinating chronicle of the last 15 years of perfumery: Tauer's Eau D'Épices, Gucci's Eau De Parfum II, Britney Spears' Fantasy and Guerlain's L'Homme Ideal are all within heavy breathing distance of each other. Poignantly, Basenotes' editors have indicated that many of the fragrances on the list are no longer in production. To start reading the rundown, please click here.


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Simmering The Fruit

It really is a stultifying cliche, but the power of smells to evoke memories is tremendous. And always surprising. And often difficult to comprehend fully. I mentioned plums and jam in yesterday's post. As I was simmering the fruit - halved and stoned, of course - in sugar and water, I lowered my head towards the saucepan, breathed in the aroma rising from the purple froth - tart, boozy, woody - and within moments, I was back in Poland. But I couldn't tell you exactly where or when. I had a hazy vision of my maternal grandmother in her flat in Warsaw's Mokotów district. I could see her standing in her narrow kitchen, bent over the cooker. But that was all. I chased the memory, but it eluded me. I don't recall whether, during the times we stayed with her, she used to make powidła, a dense, Polish variation of plum jam. Certainly, she was always pickling cucumbers and mushrooms. So perhaps plums were in her repertoire too. I'm not sure. Maybe, the next time I inhale that scent, the mirage will be sharper.


Monday, 7 September 2015

A Therapeutic Business

Although the blue skies outside my window would suggest otherwise, the chill in the night air and my calendar tell me that summer is definitely over. Soon, I hope to start gearing into pre-Christmas mode (profuse apologies for using the 9-letter word in September), but the demands of every day life are quite heavy at the moment, not least because we're caring for an extremely unwell, Eau Sauvage-loving relative. Priorities shift. Plans change. A few weeks ago, I was certain I'd be going to Florence for the Pitti fragrance exhibition this weekend. Now, I'm less sure. I'll have to wait and see how the situation develops. In the meantime, the plums in the garden need picking. Always something to do... but I don't mind if it results in making jam, which is often a therapeutic business. Plus, it fills the house with the most comforting scents.

I hope the summer treated all of you well!



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