Friday, August 28, 2015

Persolaise Review: Jack from Jack Perfume (Aliénor Massenet; 2014)


According to his exhilarating account of the creation of his first scent (click here to read it), Richard E Grant was advised to aim for a polarising composition. Nothing wishy-washy: people had to either love it or hate it. You can detect the fruits of that suggestion in the finished fragrance. Although Jack opens with a collection of materials familiar from most cologne-like releases (lemon, lime, herbs) it quickly moves into bolder territory: grapefruit*.

The material needs careful handling: a tiny amount is sufficient to transform everything within a 3-mile radius into an acidic sneer. Few brands have dared to place it within the foreground of their creations. Guerlain and Hermès pulled off the trick with remarkable success in Pamplelune and Eau De Pamplemousse Rose, respectively; Penhaligon's performed less favourably with Esprit Du Roi. Now, IFF's Aliénor Massenet has a go, but instead of downplaying the ingredient's spikier features, she tries to transform them into a virtue.

By and large, she succeeds. A husky woodiness (cedar?) links up with the grapefruit's dry facets. A note of smokiness (probably vetivert) supports its more sulphurous elements. And a bittersweet sharpness (the marijuana** reported by the media?) bolsters its acrid edges. As an expression of English eccentricity, it all works rather well, so it's a shame that its bravery isn't sustained through to the end. As though worried that too much weirdness would put off potential buyers, the scent concludes with a relatively safe, tobacco-inflected earthiness. Nevertheless, it deserves praise for its attempt to bring something novel to our scented discourse and, more importantly, it sets up the Jack Perfume brand as an attention-worthy new player on the perfume scene. 

[Review based on a sample obtained by the author in 2015.]

Persolaise

* The grapefruit has turned into something of a contentious issue. When I asked Richard E Grant about it (in an interview which you can read by clicking here) he denied its presence in Jack. However, when I put the question to Aliénor Massenet she confirmed that the perfume does, indeed, contain grapefruit derivatives. To my nose, the fruit's distinct personality is unquestionably a key feature of the composition.

** As I was very critical of the cannabis note in Kilian's Smoke For The Soul, I feel compelled to explain why I haven't been equally damning here. In the Kilian, the marijuana and all its conceptual trappings are used heavy-handedly as a means of conveying a pretentious, unconvincing air of mystique and pseudo-spirituality. In Jack, the note's inclusion is low-key, matter-of-fact and in keeping with the brand's quietly eccentric disposition, hence my willingness to accept it. 

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