Friday, 30 July 2010

Review Showcase: Tauer Perfumes

Andy Tauer's creations have just been added to the lines stocked at London's Les Senteurs, which makes this is a perfect time for a retrospective review of one of the most highly-respected niche brands around today.

Confidently taking up its position as the brazen matriarch of the collection is Le Maroc Pour Elle, an intensely spiced rosy patchouli which unveils its unmistakable presence from several metres away. As you'd expect, it evokes images of pungent souqs in Marrakesh, but there are also times when this potent juice tips over the edge and reminds me too much of the interior of an Asian grocery store. Exercise restraint, go for a more judicious application and marvel as a delectable powdery softness emerges.

Standing arm in arm with Madame Maroc is the scent which made the perfumery world sit up and pay attention to a certain corner of Zurich: L'Air Du Désert Marocain. I'll go out on a limb and risk incurring the wrath of thousands of bloggers by confessing that this isn't my favourite Tauer. It is undeniably an elegant, beautifully balanced piece of work with an utterly compelling amber drydown (that works best on fabric or in colder weather), but it's also fairly even-tempered, and I tend to be drawn to extremes...

... which brings us neatly to Lonestar Memories, a carnal blaze of birch tar and leather notes that takes you completely by surprise before slowly settling down to an exquisite accord of dry florals. Most people seem to agree that this scent conjures up scenes of cowboys, camping and the great outdoors. Well, I wasn't brought up in the western hemisphere, I've never spent a night under a tent and I've never been to Texas, so those olfactory references are lost on me, but I'm not complaining for one moment, because this stuff never fails to get under my skin, captivate my soul and remind me of the visceral power of smell. If I had to choose a favourite from this collection, it would unquestionably be Lonestar.

On the other hand, Rêverie Au Jardin takes me to the opposite end of the spectrum. If you like the idea of an unusual, almost unrecognisable lavender, then you may well love this - and apparently there are thousands of buyers in Russia who'll share your enthusiasm - but I can't get past a leery, melting plastic note that makes this the least comfortable of Andy's scents.

Thankfully, the record is redeemed by Incense Extrême and Incense Rosé, two stylish essays on the smoky seductiveness of frankincense. As its name implies, Rosé includes a well-judged floral note which moves the fragrance away from Arabia and into the heat of the Aegean, whereas Extrême remains firmly in ancient history and long-forgotten Biblical landscapes. They're both equally enticing and right up there with Andy's best.

Vetiver Dance is another departure from the world of curvaceous orientals and attempts to present one of perfumery's most enduring raw materials in a decidedly green setting. Give it a try if you like the clinical precision of Malle's Vétiver Extraordinaire, but if you prefer your khus with a healthy dose of dirt, then this one probably isn't playing your tune.

The ghosts of all the old, bewitching Guerlains are to be found in Une Rose Chyprée, a pitch-perfect manifestation of pure sensuality. My initial reaction to it was to let out a gasp of astonishment and exclaim, "I don't think I've got enough noses with which to smell this." Yes, in simplistic terms, it's a rose, but then, as we all know, a rose is a rose is a rose... Earthy and sparkling, this is a substance of gilt-edged richness, which also accomplishes the feat of remaining unabashedly unisex throughout its development.

Finally, there's the scintillating Orange Star, about which you can read a more thorough review by clicking here. Cheerful and insanely tenacious, it's an impressive marriage of Andy's interest in orientals and his dalliance with more translucent fare, moving from its clean citrus opening to its ambered base with enviable grace.

Those who follow Andy's blog (absolutely essential reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in perfumery) will know that he's not an idle soul: he's constantly working on new scents, three of which are about to be released to the general public over the course of the next few months. Of these, I was fortunate enough to obtain a sample of Une Rose Vermeille, and although my detailed review of it won't be uploaded till early September, I will just say that if you like your roses sweet and tasty, you're going to want to save up your pennies for this one.

Almost entirely hand-made in Andy's own house, his fragrances are the result of painstaking dedication to his craft and meticulous attention to detail. In an industry that is all too often driven by the dubious findings of market research and the quest for the lowest common denominator, his work displays tremendous charm and individuality. If you consider yourself a perfume lover, but you haven't yet delved into the world of Tauer, I cannot urge you strongly enough to order some samples straight away and get sniffing!


Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Science Of Scent At London's Royal Institution

Please click here to be redirected to my Basenotes article about a lecture I recently attended on the topic of turning an idea into a scent. Thanks very much.


Sunday, 25 July 2010

Smoky Mozart

Today the Persolaise household will be busy packing for the imminent trip to India, but last night I managed to find some time for one final, formulation session. I closed my study door, found Herr Mozart on the iPod and spent a little while trying to make progress with the aforementioned smoke project. One of the main difficulties I keep facing is that my idea of the scent I'd like to make - my own personal 'brief', if you like - keeps shifting each time I come across an interesting, new raw material. I'm told this is by no means an uncommon problem, but that doesn't make it any easier to overcome. Mind you, sometimes an obstacle can be turned into a flash of inspiration. I'd originally decided that I'd like to make a scent featuring a parched, animalic smoke note. Now I'm wondering if I wouldn't rather place the smoke concept within an entirely different context. Watch this space...


Regular readers may be interested to know that I have scheduled a couple of posts to appear during my first week away - including a retrospective review of all of Andy Tauer's work - but after that, things may go fairly quiet on, unless of course I manage to drag myself away from the enticements of the subcontinent and send something to Blogger. But before I go, how about a little game for the weekend?

Which fragrance should I buy for India? You've probably already worked out that I don't like anything washed-out and safe. I think this holiday calls for a bold, spicy sandalwood, with a heart of rich rose. Any suggestions? You can leave a comment here, or, if you prefer, join the fun on Basenotes.

Be good while I'm gone.


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

No Formula Changes Permitted

I recently decided to celebrate my return to the real world by popping out for some pre-holiday shopping, an activity which is always accompanied by a certain amount of perfume sniffing. As the advertising for Armani's Acqua Di Gioia was unavoidable in all the shops I entered, I thought I'd better give the juice a try. I expect it'll end up being as successful as Gio, but I certainly won't be recommending it to anyone: I think there are enough people in the western hemisphere who smell of aquatic melons.

I was equally disappointed - but more intrigued - by the Terrible version of Jean Paul Gaultier's Le Male. On paper, this was so soft as to make me wonder if its name is an ironic joke, but a skin test revealed that, sure enough, it does pack a spicier punch at the start. However, by the time it gets to its drydown, it's almost indistinguishable from the original, so even though the little razor blade around the slightly redesigned bottle is pretty cool, this is another flanker that's probably best avoided.

A quick stop at a Chanel stand confirmed that Bleu will be released on the 16th of August, but by far the most memorable moment of the day's olfactory explorations took place at the Dior counter of a high-end department store. Eager to give my nose a whiff of a classic, I asked the sales assistant if she'd spray some Diorissimo on a blotter for me. As soon as I saw the tester, I knew I was about to be treated to the substandard, new version of the scent, but 'never mind,' I told myself, 'at least it won't smell like Acqua Di Fruit Salad.'

I passed the strip under my nose and couldn't stop a frown from crossing my features for a moment. "This is the new one, isn't it?" I said with a sigh.

"The new one? Do you mean the repackaged one?"

"Yes, the one they've messed around with."

From a few feet away, her male colleague suddenly perked up and walked towards us. "It's exactly the same as the old one," he said, raising his eyebrows.

I shook my head and smiled. "You wouldn't happen to have any stock left of the old one, would you?"

He was about to say No, but the woman beat him to it and opened a drawer behind her. "Actually, we've got an old tester. It's been sitting here for ages." She placed the bottle on the counter.

"Great," I said, "we'll spray this one too and compare them."

Monsieur Dior was getting more agitated. "But it's exactly the same as the old one."

"It definitely isn't, you know."

His voice went up a notch. "But it has to be the same. They're not allowed to change it!"

And at this point, the serene look on my face must have slipped for a moment, because he scuttled away faster than I could shout "IFRA!"

Thankfully, his colleague seemed genuinely interested in my little experiment, so I sprayed a blotter with the older formulation and passed it to her. "Have a smell of this one," I said, "and don't feel you have to agree with me."

She smelled both blotters and, sure enough, the older one drew a much bigger smile from her.

"It's smoother, isn't it?" I said. "Or perhaps I shouldn't ask you that. You can't really comment, can you?"

"No, that's all right. And yes, it's definitely much smoother... much more natural. But maybe that's because..."

"Maybe that's because the new one's eau de parfum and the old one's eau de toilette? Is that what you were going to say?"

She nodded.

"Trust me: that's not the reason. My wife's got some of the old parfum, and it's perfectly, beautifully smooth. This new one..." I took in another whiff of what now seemed a woefully abrasive concoction compared to the veteran mix, "is just pretending to be Diorissimo." At which point, I picked up my tester strips, thanked her for her time and walked away as she replaced the tester in the drawer.


Monday, 19 July 2010

Review: A*Men Sunessence Edition Orage D'Ete by Thierry Mugler (2010)

As far as I'm aware, Mugler's key scents (Angel, Alien and A*Men) are still serious commercial contenders. So I don't quite understand why the firm insists on diluting their impact with an endless stream of unnecessary flankers, like this new 'Sunessence' edition of A*Men. If you don't like the original - with its distinctive coffee and patchouli fuzziness - then you won't like this. And if you do like the original, then you won't buy this, because... guess what: you'll do the sensible thing and just keep buying the original! The Mugler website claims that what makes this new juice different is that it's been energised by the sun. Err... no. It hasn't been anywhere near any stars. But I suspect it may have got quite intimate with a few vats of the discontinued B*Men, because it displays a suspiciously familiar amber warmth before descending to an overly synthetic, soapy drydown. I await next summer's inevitable follow-up with no excitement whatsoever.

[Review based on a sample of "tonic eau de toilette" obtained in 2010; fragrance tested on skin.]


Sunday, 18 July 2010

Like This Sample Giveaway Result

Many thanks to everyone who entered the draw for the sample of Like This. Today's winner is... Christof. Don't worry if you didn't get lucky this time: I expect it won't be long before I hold another draw. Christof, please could you send your address to persolaise at gmail dot com.

Have a great Sunday, everybody.


Friday, 16 July 2010

Tauer Perfumes Lily Of The Valley Project + Sample Giveaway Reminder

Some of you may be interested to learn that Andy Tauer is currently seeking submissions for a charity ebook project entitled 'A Moment With Lily Of The Valley'. A wide range of entries is permitted, including poems, short stories and blog articles. To learn more, click here, and to read Andy's own submission, head on over to Fragrantica. The project coincides with the release of Andy's latest fragrance, Carillon Pour Un Ange, and is being run in association with Luckyscent.


In other news... I am very pleased to be able to report that the whole business of the day job spilling over into evenings is almost completely over, which means I'll have some time to myself to get ready for India and, perhaps, play around with a few new materials that arrived the other day, including a particularly zingy, CO2 extracted ginger oil.

Please don't forget that I'm currently holding a giveaway draw for a sample of Like This by Etat Libre D'Orange. To enter, leave a comment on this post. The draw will be closed on Saturday night, UK time.

Here's to life returning to (semi-) normal!


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Sample Giveaway + Les Senteurs + Review: Like This by Etat Libre D'Orange (2010)

How do you bite your thumb at the stream of cynical sub-scents that emerge every summer? Here's a pretty good, two-word answer: Like This. Need more detail? Well, you start with a radiant flash of citrusy ginger, paired with a glassy lavender and the quietest hint of sweet saffron. Then you unveil a full-bodied immortelle, giving it plenty of room to show off its woody, spicy, fruity complexity. Next you introduce a well-measured scattering of bitter almonds and rose petals, lightening them with a temperate breeze that almost feels aldehydic, not unlike the effect created by Rive Gauche. And finally, you tell the world's perfume critics that your scent also contains a 'pumpkin accord', and you watch as they scratch their heads and decide if they really can detect anything vegetable-like in their sample, or if a fairy godmother has waved her wand over it and turned it into a silvery-gold bauble. You balance all these elements with immaculate precision. You name your fragrance after a Persian poem. You choose Tilda Swinton for your advertising campaign, sending out all the right messages about androgyny and eccentric English cool. And then you watch as the other inconsequential little aquas and sport lites quiver behind their multi-million dollar marketing campaigns and marvel at your impressive longevity. Or to go back to that two-word answer, the best way to do it is Like This.


I reckon nearly all UK-based perfume-lovers are aware of London's Les Senteurs, which is why I haven't felt it necessary to sing the shop's praises. But just in case there are still a few people out there who haven't made their way to Elizabeth Street (or, indeed, browsed the shop's comprehensive website), this is a timely opportunity to state that stepping into the place is like walking into the most welcoming little perfume world where the staff couldn't be more helpful and the goods on offer couldn't be more enticing. Most importantly, there isn't the faintest whiff of pushiness in the air and you're allowed plenty of time to spray on blotters, make notes and think.

It is thanks to Les Senteurs that I'm able to offer a sample of Like This to one lucky Persolaise reader. If you'd like to enter the draw, please leave a comment on this post.

Please note: i) the draw will be open only for a few days, after which the comment facility will be disabled temporarily; ii) the winner will be selected at random and announced on this blog; iii) readers from anywhere in the world are eligible to enter; iv) by entering the draw, you indicate that customs regulations in your country permit you to receive an alcohol-based perfume posted from the UK; v) if the sample is lost in transit, it will not be possible for a replacement to be sent; vi) the address of the winner will not be kept on record, nor will it be passed to any third parties; vii) Persolaise takes no responsibility for the composition of the scent, as regards potential allergens and/or restricted materials

[Mathilde Bijaoui is officially credited as creator of Like This; review based on a sample of eau de parfum obtained in 2010; fragrance tested on skin.]



UPDATE 18th July 2010: The draw is now closed. To find out if you've won, please click here.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

More Teasing...

Just to keep your appetites sharp whilst I'm working through the 'day job pile', here's a teaser for another sample giveaway which is scheduled to pop up on Tuesday. This time it'll be for a scent that is somehow related to the man pictured below:

Hope you're all having a fragrant Sunday.


Friday, 9 July 2010

Preview: Bleu De Chanel by Chanel (2010)

Here's a fact: Chanel will soon release a new men's scent called Bleu. And here's another fact: most bloggers haven't had one solitary sniff of it. Put these two facts together and you get... pages and pages of blog posts in which writers and readers tell you what they think of Bleu. Confused? So you should be, and while you're at it, you could add 'dismayed' and 'disappointed' to the mix.

There's no question that the proliferation of blogging has allowed people from all over the world to share their perfume obessions with each other in a way that was, quite literally, impossible a few years ago. But I guess every silver lining comes with a cloud. Yes, we do now have access to a huge stash of useful information, but we also have to put up with considerable amounts of unsubstantiated, ill-considered nonsense, the most depressing of which is the type that comes up when you stick 'Bleu Chanel' into Google. The perfume community - if such an entity exists - has got its hands on the official list of top, heart and base notes and has decided that this new release from the house that gave us Antaeus and Pour Monsieur is going to be an embarrassing disaster. This may well turn out to be true (although it raises questions about whether dedicated perfume lovers are placing unrealistic expectations on a company that makes no secret of its commercial agenda... although that's a topic best left for another post...). But what's more worrying is that, by their sheer volume, the negative voices will create a self-fulfilling prophecy and turn people away from what has every chance of being a perfectly decent piece of work.

So I'm sorry if this post's title brought you here on false pretences, but this is one blog where you won't find impulsive speculation masquerading as reasoned opinion. On the basis that you can't please everyone, we can safely presume that some people won't be impressed with Bleu, but can't we just wait until the juice is actually on the shelves before we get our daggers out?


Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Review: Gucci By Gucci Sport Pour Homme by Gucci (2010)

Ah, the dangers of prejudice. When I saw that a sample of this new flanker had made its way into one of my shopping bags, I immediately condemned it to the least forgiving recesses of my mind. For a start, it's designed specifically for the summer - which always sets my alarm bells ringing - and it has a name that dares not only to be ridiculously long-winded (What next? Gucci By Gucci Edition Blanche Pour Homme Et Les Petits Garcons... by Gucci?) but also to contain the word 'sport'. Three near-unforgivable black marks. But you know what... this stuff isn't all that bad. There's no way I'd buy it for myself, as I'd rather spend my hard-earned pennies on something with more substance, but if you absolutely insist on wearing lighter scents in hotter weather then this would probably be a sensible purchase. Dior restored some respectability to this genre a few years ago with Homme Sport, which used gingery notes for tenacity. Here, grapefruit fulfils a similar function, with a well-judged hint of cardamom-like spices brought in for a scattering of intrigue. Combine this with the predictable mix of lavender, lemon and lime and you end up with a fairly graceful tennis-player of a scent, albeit not the sort who makes it to the final of a grand slam tournament. You need more... ahem... balls than this to make it past the first round.

[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette obtained in 2010; fragrance tested on skin.]


Saturday, 3 July 2010

Wonderwood Sample Giveaway Result + Momentary Hibernation Lull

Thanks to everyone who took part in the Wonderwood draw. You'll see from the image above that the winner is the second person who a left comment: Ines.

Hopefully, I'll be able to hold another draw in the foreseeable future...

...and whilst I'm at my computer, I may as well jot down a few more lines to say that the massive 'day job pile' is going down nicely and I should be able to return to some formulating in a few weeks... but I won't really have much time to get stuck in, because the end of July will see me jetting off to Mumbai, from where I hope to send some fascinating perfume-related posts. But for now, it's back to hibernation mode.


Friday, 2 July 2010

Scent Gathering With Andy Tauer

I recently had the good fortune to attend one of Ronny Geller's Scent Gatherings and spend several hours in the company of Andy Tauer, creator of, amongst others, L'Air Du Désert Marocain, Orange Star and the upcoming Une Rose Vermeille. Andy was a consummate raconteur and wove the most evocative tales around his fragrances, adding weight to the frequent assertion that his perfumes are the result of very deeply held, personal dedication. If you ever get an opportunity to hear him speak, I strongly urge you to take it.

If you'd like to find out more about Ronny's Scent Gatherings, then check out her Scent And Sensibility site, through which you can also obtain samples of all of Andy's work.

And if you'd like to read a brand new article on Andy, click here.


Thursday, 1 July 2010

Roja Dove's Haute Parfumerie

One of the perks of publishing on the Internet is that you can change posts with which you're not entirely happy. This one is a case in point: over the course of several months, I've taken it off, amended it, re-published it, decided it wasn't right, tweaked it some more, re-posted it, deleted it again... and so on. The reason is that it's taken me quite some time to decide precisely how I feel about the glitzy bauble on the fifth floor of Harrods, aka the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie.

My first visit left me unsatisfied: I was lost in a sea of haute-ness. I glanced at some of the bottles, sniffed a few things and trundled away. But I was soon drawn back for many return visits. And since then I've come to the conclusion that the elegant, mirrored enclosure is quite simply one of the most important perfumeries in Britain, if not the world. For one thing, it holds several UK-only exclusives (the list keeps changing but at the moment it includes Profumum Roma, some Carons and a few MDCIs, amongst many others). But what makes it really special is that it represents one person's vision of what constitutes great, modern fragrance creation. The place has to obey fiscal imperatives; that goes without saying. It's a shop, not a charity, and so the people who run it have to ensure that they stock sufficient quantities of stuff that's commercially viable (scented candles, anyone?). But within these prosaic constraints, it achieves a feat to which few shops even aspire. In short, it is a showcase not so much of what one man thinks people might buy, but of what one man thinks people ought to buy.

The way in which this ethos manifests itself in the shop is in its refusal to carry the entire portfolio of the brands it sells. Most perfumeries don't get to pick and choose which specific perfumes they stock from any given fragrance house; for instance, if they wish to sell Dior, they have to take on the entire mainstream Dior range. But Roja Dove is permitted to be selective. He can have, say, Eau Sauvage, Diorissimo and Diorling, but he can say No to Dior Homme and Addict. Check out his Guerlain selection: Vol De Nuit, Nahema, Mitsouko and a few others are represented in extrait form, but you won't find Idylle, Guerlain Homme or Champs Elysees. I suspect a tiny number of brands decided they wouldn't go along with this particular arrangement - wares from Chanel are conspicuous by their absence - but the sheer number of companies which have agreed to play ball is a testament to Dove's standing in the perfume industry.

When you combine this with knowledgeable service, a discreet, non-pushy atmosphere and blissful silence, you get a unique scent experience: one part visit to a shop, one part peek into a personal perfume collection and one part wander around a scent museum. An absolute must-see, if ever there was one.


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