Friday, 7 December 2012

Persolaise Review: Pot Pourri from Odette Toilette & Candles from L'Artisan Parfumeur, Jardins D'Écrivains + Voyager

Image: George Dunlop Leslie

There are only a few things which make the colder months bearable. Amongst them are Have I Got News For You (pretty much the only TV programme I try not to miss), the Jan/Feb crop of serious cinematic fare (as opposed to the Jul/Aug bundle of moronic nonsense) and the ability to hide one's over-indulgence in mince pies beneath layers of coats, scarves and cardigans (a feat which is becoming increasingly difficult to pull off with each passing year). And then there are home fragrances. At Maison Persolaise we don't really need any excuse to light a perfumed candle, but when the days are shorter and the nights colder, the desire to fill the house with a protective veil of scent seems particularly sharp.

In some ways, buying a parfum d'ambience is harder than choosing a personal fragrance. After all, you can spray the latter on your skin, and then walk away and evaluate its 'performance' at your leisure. But a candle or a room spray is a slightly different prospect: something that smells purchase-worthy in a shop may turn out to be sub-standard when you take it home. Take Jardins D'Écrivains, for instance. Designed to evoke spaces frequented by famous writers, the candles I sampled from this range are promising when sniffed directly from their jars, but when they're actually lit, their diffusiveness is what you might call 'short range'. I was looking forward to wrapping myself in a haze of musk and cedar inspired by Blixen's Nairobi or to fly off to the pines and figs of Colette's St Tropez, but sadly, I wasn't taken very far away from the chilly dampness of southern Hampshire. For the sake of fairness, I should point out that the only other two I've tried are those attributed to George Sand and the Brontes; there's every possibility that the rest of the collection is superior to this lacklustre quartet.

Thankfully, L'Artisan Parfumeur's candles almost never disappoint. The brand produces too many to list here, but in this season of chilly greyness, the first one I'd recommend is Rose Des Indes. A near-perfect spicy rose immortalised in wax, it is probably as evocative and poetic as a candle could ever hope to be, displaying as many contrasts and intricacies as the rich feast that is Guerlain's Nahema. Traversée Du Bosphore is a must-try too. Indeed, I sometimes prefer it to the bottled scent: there's a drier aspect to it - an emphasis on the iris note, perhaps? - which serves to make the whole more arresting. And for an entirely different effect, there's Intérieur Figuier, based on Olivia Giacobetti's Premier Figuier (still one of the finest fig scents around). Green, woody and entirely natural-smelling, it fills the space around it with the promise of spring and the laziness of summer.

Fig leaves also feature in Alexandra, the only candle I've been able to sample from Australia's Voyager brand. In keeping with the blurb on the website, this really does conjure open spaces and coastal drives, largely thanks to a well-judged marine note couched within greener elements. It's inadvisable to make a sweeping judgement based on only one product, but on the strength of Alexandra, I'd suggest Voyager is a name to watch. Oh, and the transparent jar in which the candle is housed is very attractive too.

Finally, I'd like to move away from wax and wicks to mention Blend #1, the debut pot pourri from Odette Toilette. Now, if the term 'pot pourri' conjures images of tacky pine cones and garishly coloured coils of plastic, then banish all such thoughts from your mind straight away. For a start, this stuff is entirely organic and has been created using techniques which date back to the 16th century. It is contained in a striking, black clay pot made by hand at an artisanal workshop in England. And all its scented flowers and herbs were grown on the British Isles by horticulturalist Stephen Nelson.

As per the the rules of proper pot pourri preparation, the odour of this product doesn't come from any additional ingredients (as long as you don't count the few drops of rose otto that go into every pot). What you smell is the olfactory harmony of all the petals, bits of bark and chunks of leaves that have been macerated and thrown into the mix. And what a beautiful harmony it is. Rose is certainly the central note, but various aromatics come into play too (notably rosemary and bay) as well as the cool exoticism of cardamom and the ambery sweetness of benzoin. I'm not one for walks in forests, but that's exactly what comes into my mind every time I sink my nose into this unusual, subtle blend: the sunlight peers through the gaps in the trees, the breeze carries the faint whisper of sweet blooms and in the distance, a secluded clearing invites you to lie down and rest your weary limbs. Time will tell how long its fragrance will last (apparently it can be rejuvenated with a few drops of brandy!) but on the basis of about two weeks' usage, I'm happy to file it under 'Highly recommended'.

[Reviews of Jardins D'Écrivains candles, L'Artisan Parfumeur candles and Odette Toilette pot pourri based on samples obtained in 2012; review of Alexandra based on a sample provided by Voyager in 2012.]



  1. I'm so with you on L'Artisan's TdB candle! So right on-- the candle is slightly more appealing to me as well, though I love the perfume. I think the perfume is just a little too sweet, so it makes me a touch queasy.

    For my money, you can't do better than Diptyque for candles (though L'Artisan comes close). Very diffusive, very attractive scents for all tastes and moods. A favorite of mine is Mimosa. Ah, and speaking of good fig scents, Philosykos! I find the combination of green and lactonic in any form strangely alluring.

    1. Carrie, thanks very much. Yes, the Diptyque candles certainly have a very loyal following. I can't say I'm overly familiar with them, but perhaps I'll rectify that in 2013.

  2. Hubby and I love scented candles. He even burns them in his office. I find that scents that I don't necessarily want to wear as a perfume I love to smell in the house as room fragrances. Is that odd? I haven't tried the L'Artisan candles. Yet. I used to keep potpourri on the kitchen windowsill which only got a little sun but enough to warm and disperse the scent. I had to replace the window and no longer have a windowsill so I don't have potpourri anymore either.

    1. Poodle, thanks for writing. You've got a treat in store with the Artisans.

      I think it's time you got another windowsill ;-)

  3. I'll echo Carrie's sentiments on the Diptyque candles, since they're so well done, albeit tres expensive! I've had a Feu de Bois candle that gives off a very calming autumn air scent, crisp, woody, like the smell of a fireplace with an autumn or winter chill.

    On the other end of the spectrum, though, I'll suggest something a bit more American and home-spun and still very good smelling. The fall collections from Yankee Candle -- ok, they aren't all natural materials and less refined, but they'll do nicely -- are still lovely and home-warming scents despite going 'downmarket'.

    1. Andrew, thanks for your comment. Yes, I really need to give the Diptyques some attention.

      As for Yankee... I confess I have a problem with many of them. I have no objection to perfumes being created with synthetic materials, but to my nose, many of the Yankee Candles smell overly 'chemically'.

  4. Sorry for the really late comment but, I am very behind on my blog reading.... Thanks for your thoughts on candles, I am always scared to buy any of these high end "perfume brands" since, like you say, I never know how they will end up smelling when you actually burn them. However, the other day I was at the Amouage flagship store in Muscat, Oman and they had four bokhour scents (sorry, I am not sure how you spell it, but the traditional incense you burn) and I had to get the one in Jubilation XXV since it is one of my favorite perfume scents. It smells so much like the perfume in raw form but, I haven't had the time to burn it yet to see how it turns out. They also had Gold (again, smelled just like the perfume) and two oudh scents which were a little too Middle Eastern for my Western tastes. They tell me that these are only available at this store but, I can't confirm that.

    1. Dubaiscents, don't worry, it's never too late to leave a comment :-)

      Any experience I've had of Amouage's home scents has never been anything less than superb. Their Silk Road candle is out of this world.

      As far as I'm aware, they don't sell 'bokhour' scents in the London store. I love the idea of Gold in incendiary form!


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