Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Persolaise Review: Guerlain's Parisiennes And Parisiens Come To Harrods

Dedicated followers of London's scent routes will already be aware that Guerlain's Parisiens collection of 'exclusive' masculine fragrances (normally available only in Paris) has been at Harrods for a few weeks. Like the brand's Aqua Allegoria range, the membership of this particular group isn't set in stone - the official word is that it's determined by public demand - but at the moment, the line-up is: Arsene Lupin*, Arsene Lupin Voyou, Derby, Chamade Pour Homme and L'Âme D'Un Héros.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Persolaise Review: Aqua Vitae from Maison Francis Kurkdjian (Francis Kurkdjian; 2013)

Get Lippie said it best. She and I were amongst several other writers at the press launch of Aqua Vitae and as she breathed in the scent, she closed her eyes and declared, "This smells like a hug in the 70s." At first, I wasn't entirely sure what she meant. But now, after having worn the fragrance a few times, I'm beginning to appreciate the notion which occurred to her as soon as she encountered this latest release from Francis Kurkdjian.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Japan's Traditional 'Kodo' Incense Ceremony Comes To London

image: Cristina Jaleru - lifeofvenus.com

A few months ago, I had the tremendous good fortune to witness a Japanese incense ceremony conducted by Souhitsu Isshikenn Hachiya, Junior Master at Japan's Shino School of Kodo. My account of the event has now been published on Basenotes, so please click here to read it. Here's an extract, to whet your appetite:

Hachiya had to undergo more than a decade of training before he was qualified to carry out the intricate kodo ceremony. In that time, he had to learn not how to smell the incense, but how to listen to it. "This derives from the Buddhist notion of listening to scent," he said. "When Buddha used to teach, he used to do it with scent rather than with words. His students would learn directly from fragrance as opposed to words. For myself, I take the fragrance and feel with my nose, but it doesn't end there. You listen with your ears and your heart. You use every single sense to have a dialogue with the bark. I don't understand it fully, but this is the closest explanation I can give. This is something that is revealed to you in small portions at a time."


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

À Bientôt From Persolaise

It's that time of year again when I bid farewell to Blogger for a while and give my creative batteries a chance to recharge. I hope the rest of the summer treats you all very well. I've scheduled at least one post to pop up in each of the next few weeks, so hopefully you won't miss me too much.

Be good while I'm gone,


Monday, 22 July 2013

Looking Beyond - Francis Kurkdjian At The Launch Of Aqua Vitae

I realise I may be sticking my neck out on the line by typing the following words, but I do honestly think that Francis Kurkdjian is being unfairly maligned by some sectors of the scented blogosphere. I don't know him as a friend, so I won't pretend to have a strong sense of what he's like as a person - I suspect he's as complex a mix of flaws and attributes as we all are - but I always appreciate his candour when I meet him in a professional setting and I admire the way in which he expresses his views without worrying about whether they're going to make him popular.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Persolaise Review: Eau De Narcisse Bleu from Hermès (Jean-Claude Ellena; 2013)

Jean-Claude Ellena followed a somewhat more traditional path with Eau De Mandarine Ambrée, one of two 'light' scents released by Hermès this year. But he clearly wanted Eau De Narcisse Bleu to join the ranks of his nouv'eau de colognes (Eau De Gentiane Blanche, Eau Parfumée Au Thé Vert) which attempt to find relatively unusual ways of working within the centuries-old cologne structure. Here, as the name suggests, he's drawn inspiration from the outdoorsy, hay-like characteristics of narcissus and created a scent that appears to be suspended in the part-wild, part-civilised realm of an urban locale that's not too far from the countryside. The citrus aspect of the construction is genteel and decorous, but it's never sweet, which allows the sour, greener facets of the narcissus to link strongly with the pronounced herbal notes (imagine chopping lots of fresh parsley to go into a tabbouleh) and pull the whole into more untamed territory. Shimmering above all this is a watery translucency (have no fear: there is nothing 'marine' at play here) which somehow manages to be both wistful and life-affirming. The recent Jour D'Hermès was supposed to feel like walking past a multi-bloom bouquet, and Ellena has brought the 'uplifting floral' strain of its DNA into Narcisse Bleu as well. But beneath the apparent weightlessness and simplicity, there's an x-factor, an element of surprise... like stepping into a garden you've seen countless times before and suddenly being overwhelmed with the conviction that you're experiencing it for the very first time ever.

[Review based on a sample of eau de cologne provided by Hermès in 2013.]


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

New Penhaligon's And Chanel Shops In London

Image: Chanel

Perfume is by no means the primary concern of the new Chanel boutique on Bond Street, but I'd recommend a visit even if you're not interested in the brand's clothes, shoes or handbags. When I first read that this was to be the firm's largest shop in the world, I confess I feared the worst. Would it be an oversized Chanel mall, I wondered. Would it diminish the 'luxury' feel which the company still manages to convey to most people? I'm pleased to say that the answer turned out to be No, because the space is a triumph of clever design. Yes, it's large, but it's been chopped up into small, intimate sub-sections. And boy, is it a feast for the eyes. From the 11 meter tall, Jean-Michel Othoniel glass necklace - the largest of its kind, apparently - to the rhinestone-encrusted, Marc Swanson deer in the jewellery section - inspired by the less blingy specimens Mademoiselle Gabrielle kept at her 31 Rue Cambon apartment - all the specially commissioned artworks are worth a second look. What's more, they pay homage to the firm's past whilst simultaneously pushing its aesthetic far into the 21st century, which would have satisfied Gabrielle's avant-garde-ist leanings, no doubt.

Monday, 15 July 2013

A Bullet In The Air - Carlos Huber On The Creation Of Aleksandr

Following on from my email correspondence with Carlos Huber about what he considers to be the reasons for the success of his brand, Arquiste, I asked him if he would explain the development of one of his perfumes in particular. Anima Dulcis and Boutonnière No. 7 - wonderful though they are - have already had a great many words written about them, so I decided to turn the spotlight on the haughty Aleksandr, authored by Yann Vasnier. What inspired the scent? How did it make its journey from idea to bottled fragrance? Were there any challenges or surprises along the way?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Persolaise Review: Oud Noir from Versace (perfumer unknown; 2013)

In the seemingly endless torrent of 'oud' scents pumped out by the mainstream, every now and then, something vaguely interesting raises its head above the water. Versace's Oud Noir is one such effort. Don't get too excited: it's far from being a masterpiece. But at least it makes an attempt to veer away from the utterly exhausted cliches of so-called Arabian roses and leathers. Not unlike Francis Kurkdjian's Oud from last year, it tries to attain originality by combining the olfactory codes of the east with those of the west. So, on the one hand, it presents an oud note, and on the other, it offers lavender and various other aromatic herbs. In other words, it's an oud fougère. As far as ideas go, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this one, but sadly, the execution leaves something to be desired. The problem, surprise surprise, lies with the agar. Excessively woody and synthetic, it is far too faint and mono-dimensional to convince that it's been anywhere near the Gulf. That said, as a dose of ersatz Arabia - think: a dishdash picked up from a fancy dress shop in Camden rather than a souq in Cairo - Oud Noir isn't totally devoid of merit.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Versace in 2013.]


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Things You See At A Perfume Factory - A Visit To Robertet In Grasse

The photo above shows one of the sights that greeted me and Madame Persolaise when we visited Robertet's Grasse factory in February*. A heap of mimosa, filling the air with its unmistakable, buttery-powdery scent. As my jaw dropped with astonishment, Francis Thibaudeau (General Manager of the Fragrance Division) chuckled. "You should have come here this morning," he said. "The flowers were piled all the way up to the No Smoking sign."

When we got back home, I told myself that I had to write about our unforgettable tour without any delay whatsoever. But then life happened, one thing led to another, and those mimosa blossoms got pushed further and further down my To Do list. Now, almost six months later, I find my thoughts wandering back to Grasse. I'm not sure what's brought on this retrospective mood - maybe it's the fact that, as I type these words, the weather in Britain is finally beginning to take its cue from the Côte D'Azur! - but whatever the reason, this evening, I shall not sign out of Blogger until my little travelogue is complete. So here goes...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Aurelien Guichard At London Launch Of Issey Miyake's Pleats Please

Aurelien Guichard was in London in March to promote Pleats Please, the new feminine scent he's made for Issey Miyake. Click here for an account of my meeting with him, in which we chatted about childhood influences, the importance of L'Eau D'Issey and, of course, the smell of brightly coloured pleats.


Monday, 8 July 2013

A Very Public Convenience - Etat Libre D'Orange Boutique Opens In London

The latest sign of the continuing trendification of London's East End is the opening of the Etat Libre D'Orange boutique (61 Redchurch Street, E2 7DJ; tube: Shoreditch High Street or Liverpool Street). A short walk from Bloom and just around the corner from Santa Maria Novella, there's no denying that the space is a welcome addition to London's perfumery scene, but I can't help wishing it was just a bit larger.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Olivier Polge Joins His Father Jacques As Perfumer At Chanel

Big news from the house of the double-C logo. Here's a press release I received this morning:

CHANEL takes great pleasure in announcing the arrival of Olivier Polge as Perfumer in the CHANEL Fragrance Laboratory, alongside Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake. As Perfumer at IFF since 1998, Olivier Polge has developed internationally successful fragrances for a number of leading luxury brands and houses. In recognition of his creative talents, he was awarded the “Prix International du Parfum” in 2009. 

Persolaise Review: Fate Woman (Dorothée Piot) & Fate Man (Karine Vinchon) from Amouage (2013)

If we're in the realm of tea leaves, crystal balls and kismet, let me put my tarot cards on the table straight away: I don't see these two scents in my future. The output of the house of Amouage often strikes a powerful chord with my perfume preferences, but both Fate Woman and Fate Man represent a rare case of me being left bemused by a new release from the brand.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Persolaise In British Airways High Life Shop

photo: Andy Barter; set design: Nick Wood

Those of you hopping aboard a British Airways flight this summer may be interested to learn that the current issue of High Life Shop magazine features an article by yours truly on the subject of Arabian-style perfumes. For an electronic version of the magazine, please click here (my piece is on page 64). Please note: this link will probably expire at the end of September, when the October-December issue comes out.


Monday, 1 July 2013

500th Post + The Winner Of Alyssa Harad's Book

Just over three years ago, I published Post #1 here on Persolaise.com, and today I reach the 500 mark! Where has the time gone, I ask you? Answer: in a haze of perfume... and, of course, in a blur of words racing across a computer screen. Thanks very much indeed to all of you for continuing to support my writing. Your encouragement means a great deal to me. Let's see how long it takes to get to #1000.

I'm delighted to be able to mark this occasion by giving away a prize to one lucky reader. Many thanks to all of you who entered last week's draw for a copy of Alyssa Harad's Coming To My Senses. The winner is


Please send your postal address to persolaise at gmail dot com as soon as you can.

Right, time to prepare Post #501...



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