If you'd like to read about my childhood stone sucking habit and a wood that stinks of onions, head over to The Library Of Fragrance who interviewed me for their blog.
Monday, 13 October 2014
Sunday, 5 October 2014
I enjoy a drink. Not in vast liver pickling quantities, but I do get rather excited about a good bottle of prosecco or an earthily lush Scottish whiskey. On the rare occasions where I’ve meekly stumbled into work with a ‘wasn’t expecting that sort of night’ hangover, I’ve worried about projecting an eau de latent-booze sillage. Which makes me wonder…
Why do we like boozy perfumes?
Aldi's gin. Tastes brilliant. Smells brilliant.
There’s loads of them. Ancient Cognac house Frapin market some of the most favoured booze fumes, with Frapin 1697 and Speakeasy issuing a more powerful rum whiff than a Jamaican theme bar. Guerlain’s latest Aqua Allegoria release, Limon Verde, is an acidicly sunny homage to the Caipairinha cocktail that stirs joyful memories of moonlit dancing somewhat pissed-up on a beach in Portugal. Penhaligon’s and Lubin both created an ode to gin and tonic in Juniper Sling and Gin Fizz respectively. Each echoing the bracing and aromatic refreshment of my favourite pre-dinner tipple.
All of these scents use the booze in a subtly blended manner. Neither will provoke a raised eyebrow and a ‘has she been drinking?’ query. However, one that might do is the utterly bonkers Bertrand Duchaufour creation for Penhaligon’s - Tralala.
“Tralala, is the latest fragrance from Penhaligon's inspired by the fantastical universe of Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff. An opulent, hedonistic blend created by Master Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour.” (Penhaligons.com)
Meadham Kirchhoff are an offbeat fashion design duo who paired up with Penhaligon’s to create a scent to echo their spirit – in essence a quirky ‘designer scent’ for this historic perfume house. Their designs are brilliantly weird with all sorts of hyper-references to the glamour of the past. I’m not talking about Hollywood glamour here, unless the film is Tod Browning’s 1932 ‘Freaks’ - a disturbing tale of what happens when the ‘normals’ (not my term) try to diddle the circus ‘freaks’ out of their share of the money. They feel exotically ‘children’s dressing up box’.
Meadham Kirchhoff designs on the catwalk
Tralala is somewhat ‘trashy’, in a rather superb way. It’s odd booze and confectionary vibe feels glamourous yet childish. The stuff of ‘cheap glamour’, i.e. feather trims, sequins, kaleidoscopic colour, frills, bows and lace, that appeal to the young girl. Give an eight year old girl a feather boa and some sparkly jewelry to play with and she’ll be absorbed in a fantasy world, no matter how much of a tomboy she may be. I had one, and I climbed trees and built dens. It even has a (creepy) dolls head for a lid, no doubt to reawaken a sense of playfulness in our adult lives.
When I first smelt Tralala I was very confused. It smelt both splendid and rancid in equal measures. I loved it, then I hated it, then I loved it again. It seems that with this scent there’s a requirement for a specific mood. I can’t get up and spray it after my morning shower, it would be like quaffing a box of pralines, washed down with a double Laphroiag alongside my Cornflakes. Likewise, it doesn’t work for me as a bed scent, being a little too aldehyde perky for soporific effect. What it does do however, it augment those times when you delve into your grown up dressing up box. It’s a whopping great night out accessory for the times you feel the need to wear something grandly outrageous. Encased within it's own lavish wardrobe, you can literally reach inside and bring Tralala out to play with you.
Essentially, it smells of whiskey fudge. So much so that (if donned in a limited edition tartan bow) it would sell marvelously well in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill shops where tourist folk fork out much moollah for cosy cashmere jumpers and kitsch tins of shortbread decorated with rampantly masculine looking stags in a misty glen.
I rather like the smell of whiskey fudge.
This isn’t a completely gourmand scent though. An aldehyde reigns through the opening, which smells most beguilingly peculiar alongside the sweetness. I’m used to the sparkling aldehydes of No. 5 and Arpege where the effect is dryly ‘grown-up’. The aldehyde in Tralala serves to freshen what would otherwise be a syrupy sweet opening. Add to this a hint of leather and an edge ‘not actually for children’ appears. It’s a bit like the image of an adult female wearing ankle socks with stiletto heels, slightly kinky.
Ultimately, I prefer Duchaufor’s earlier perfume – Skin on Skin, created for sister company L’ Artisan Parfumeur, due to it’s all occasions wearability. This whiskey and leather scent possesses great similarities to Tralala but replaces the confectionary overload with lavender. It is much more suitable for one who tends to dislike gourmands. However, on the occasions when I dust off the Mac emerald coloured eye shadow and gold flecked body oil, then wobble onto my scarlet platform heels, I’ll be reaching for Tralala to complement the dressing up box excess.
I had my encounter with Tralala courtesy of the lovely Alex Musgrave (AKA The Silver Fox). If you have not yet discovered his scent blog, here is a link. It’s a literary delight.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read about Union Fragrance - Celtic Fire, another fine whiskey bomb perfect for Autumn.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read about Union Fragrance - Celtic Fire, another fine whiskey bomb perfect for Autumn.
Sunday, 28 September 2014
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
A couple of weeks ago I was offered the chance to trial some of the recently relaunched Demeter fragrance line (now called The Library of Fragrance in Europe). With evocative names abounding such as Thunderstorm and Snow, I was thrilled by the prospect.
I set out to choose a few of the diminutive bottles which took some considerable time, with 100 fragrances in the range it was decidedly difficult to narrow it down to just a few. Obviously, being an outdoorsy type I chose some replicant weather conditions straight away but then became somewhat stumped as to what to select next. Having never written about a true ‘musk’ on Odiferess, Musk ’hash’ 7 seemed an appropriate selection. Musk ‘hash’ 7 has nothing at all do with hash/hashish. It simply means that I can’t work out how to make a hash sign on my laptop! I shall thus refer to it as ‘Musk 7’.
After being a little emotionally refrigerated by the (very odd) squally weather condition scents, I was pleased to get my nose into something considerably warmer, more jovial and rather quirky.
Musk 7 is one of three musk scents from The Library of Fragrance, all claim to be based upon a synthetic white musk which is described as ‘clean, smooth and sweet’ as opposed to dirty and animalic. In complete opposition to the claim, my skin appears to be able to turn it into a superbly filthy and complex scent.
Complexity isn’t a term you’d associate with most of the line as The Library of Fragrance don’t create pyramid structure perfumes. Instead, they attempt to capture a specific isolated smell, either as a replicant (such as the gorgeously realistic Honeysuckle) or as a conceptual experience (a prime example being Laundromat). With this in mind, they are not ‘perfumey perfumes’. This presents a conundrum for me as I am an avid lover of a good old-fashioned structure that transforms throughout the wear.
However, being priced at a mere £15 for a 30 ml bottle and even cheaper in the USA in smaller sizes, there is definitely a niche for the brand to inhabit with their quirky linear scents. Launching in the UK at the high street pharmacy Boots last week, they chose to market just 30 of the almighty library. Included in the selection were mainly ‘friendly’ scents, many with a gourmand, optimistic or clean feel (which I think will be ideal affordable gifts for the teen market). Pleasingly, they have also included some more avant-garde concepts for us fume junkies to get excited by and the inevitable patchouli and amber for the many who adore this uber-trend.
I’d expected the musk to be a tad boring, in that it was likely to mimic the notorious White Musk from The Body Shop. Whilst it does share a similar opening, this is by no means the same scent. The ‘pretty’ is absent, replaced by a daring skin accord that will no doubt intrigue those with their noses permanently stuck to their wrist. In fact, had it arrived in a blank bottle from a secret benefactor I would have imagined it was a new release from Etat Libre D’Orange named ‘Hot Carpenter’.
(Here should be a photo of a hot carpenter but Google offered little until I turned the safe search off, the results were spectacularly un-publishable!)
It basically smells like unwashed (but certainly not unpleasant) skin mixed up with a little wood and leathery labdanum - a hot carpenter wearing a leather tool belt! I’ve longed to smell the almost mythical ‘complex musk’ accords spoken of so longingly by the perfume community. I’ve encountered the truly rank – the rather pissy and feral ‘tonkin’ style musks and the sexless – the ever so clean laundry yawn creators, but not the almost mythical ‘fatty’ skin musk. And here it is! In Musk 7 I can detect scalp (at a gentle midpoint between clean and grease laden), butter or even baker’s lard, skin from areas of the body without major secretions (an inoffensive bit of arm after a few day’s shower-free camping), brazil nut flesh, the warm fur of snoozy cat, bacon rind and a vaguely cheesy whiff (more Edam than Stilton). And I really rather like it.
Perhaps my position as 'cat lover' sways me but isn't warm cat fur a wonderful smell?
Memories of childhood baking - Trex brand lard
The truly inspired aspect of this creation is that they have added a patchouli and amber accord without it becoming a ‘patchouli and amber’ perfume. They are there, but in such a subtle manner that they remain in the background, rare amongst a sea of fragrances that shout these notes at ear trembling volume. Instead, they offer a woody warmth and a temperance to what would otherwise be a straight up lardy whiff.
Ultimately, I’d recommend this scent to the amber/woody oriental lovers as I think they’d appreciate the surprisingly sophisticated background. It won’t please those who hanker after a great scent trail as this wears very close to the skin. It does however last a lot longer than the others I sampled giving a good four hours wear and tonight, amazingly, it survived a lengthy bubble bath albeit in a slightly drowned capacity.
You may also enjoy my post on the fruity desert musk of L’ Erbolario - Meharees
For a chance to win a 5 ml decant of this creation, please leave a comment below or at the Odiferess Facebook page telling me your thoughts on musky scents. A winner will be randomly drawn on the 27th of September, sadly only available to UK readers due to the rubbish postal laws.
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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Gustave Moreau - The Sirens, 1872
Much has been written about Liz Moores’ recently launched Papillon brand. It became an internet phenomenon long before the scents were ready for sale, mostly due to her prolific engagement with scent lover’s forums online.
What has not yet been discussed yet is the untamed erotic disposition of the scent that stirred me most significantly – Anubis.
True erotica isn’t concerned with the sex act, instead, it brings forth imagery to tease and rouse the imagination. It is enigmatic rather than explicit. In the fact that is more to do with the mind than actuality, erotica can play with concepts or imagery that perhaps you might not necessarily want to connect with in real life. I’m sure that no seafaring man wished to end his life shattered upon the bloody rocks, lured by the bewitching call of the Siren. And yet there is no doubt the fantasy of resting his cheek amongst the plentiful bosom of the sinister maritime songstress sisters would have surely whistled a breeze up his flagpole.
Anubis is primarily a smoky leather scent, underpinned with a spiritual incense that renders it ‘otherworldly’. My first thoughts were of David Hemmings playing the startlingly handsome Captain Nolan in the 1968 film – The Charge Of The Light Brigade. It’s not just the almighty horsey leather boots reference, it’s in his eyes. A star reigning long before the advent of Touche Eclat, his beauty was magnified by the dark shadows underneath eyes of sapphire. Shadows that hinted at late nights and Byronic decadence. Gothic chic – a deathly pallor.
Leather has traditionally signified the erotic in perfumery. It’s no wonder when we consider the connotations of this whiff. The obvious (and to me unappealing) signification is the relationship between leather and S&M. However a more intriguing idea is the imagery of the horseman, the hero that will rescue us from danger, or perhaps the highwayman that will hold us at peril. The young girl that reads stories of valiant horseback rescue may also be the girl who’s first love is a pony. In this case the ripe leather and grassy sweat smell of saddlery and the excitement of our first pair of proper riding boots is associated with the obsessive equine love of the teenage girl, creatures that we adored and nurtured and nuzzled long before we discovered boys.
Anubis contains an almost briny element, reminiscent of fresh sweat upon the skin or the seawater that clings to us following a dip in the sea. The sea brings me back to mythology and the great paintings of classical tales. Manchester Art Gallery displays a melancholically erotic depiction of Sappho, poet of Ancient Greece, said to have ended her life by jumping off a sea cliff driven quite mad by her love of a ferryman. Some years ago I swam in icy, weed riddled waters off the West Coast of Scotland. Under a black sky spattered with the incandescent spectacle of the Milky Way, I was struck by the terror of unseen creeping hands of the seaweed and yet overcome by the almighty feeling of being consumed by vivid raw nature in a vast landscape. When I stand in front of Sappho I feel both the terror of the sea and the absolute elemental nature of feminine sensuality.
Charles-August Mengin - Sappho, 1877
We are indeed creatures of Mother Nature, affected at base level by the stuff of the earth. Living in the modern world we take our sensual pleasures in our homes, most often in bed. But our fantasies often take us outside where our visions of amourous embraces are acted out in the forests and mountains, the picnic with the sun baked and bonded skin, the hidden shelter of a canopy of trees in an electrical storm, the whiff of a man’s hair tainted by wood smoke. Were I not afraid of the chanting, rituals and terrible fashion, I’d without doubt become a Pagan priestess.
Which leads me nicely back to Liz. Not that I’m suggesting that she is indeed a Pagan priestess, but she does live deep in the countryside surrounding by a gaggle of children, various pets and domesticated wildlife. It seems fitting that such an evocative perfume came from a nose with a profound love of rural life.
On Ormonde Woman and witchcraft
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Friday, 22 August 2014
This week I had the joy of spending some time with fume retailer Peter Murray at Pulse Of Perfumery, an independent scent shop in Knutsford. For my International readers I must explain that Britain is sadly lacking in independent scent shops, having just a small handful outside of London and (I think) only three very much spread out over the North of England.
Knutsford is a great example of ‘ye olde England’, a teeny historic town in the heart of Cheshire, dripping with wealth, yummie mummies and day trippers. An ideal spot to launch a shop that sells luxury items. This seams to be a commonality as the other two are in Lytham St Annes and York, both towns of a similar nature.
Pulse Of Perfumery has been a great success, launched during Britain’s financial recession, it could have easily been boarded up six months into it’s life. A quirky shop in a small town is a dangerous investment these days. There are several reasons why I think it thrived.
Firstly, range. The lines are a mix of the classic (such as Chanel, Acqua di Parma, Hermes), the contemporary designers (Tom Ford, Jimmy Choo, Narciso Rodrigues and the like) and Niche (Bois 1920, Serge Lutens, Lubin, Grossmith and Atkinsons). Breadth has allowed for a wide spectrum of tastes and aspirations to be catered for.
I arrived purposefully early to get some time with Peter before the lunchtime rush. With just a few early morning customers, I had the opportunity to eavesdrop on some sales. The first was what could only be described as a ‘hit and run’. As we were chatting over some smelling strips, a lady hurried in, muttering the words Chanel No. 5. Nothing else, no hello and certainly no stolen glances at the marvellous wares on display. Peter wrapped, bagged and swiped at record speed and the woman was gone. The entire purchase took about 60 seconds. I’ve never seen a bigger contrast in shopping style to my own, I can only imagine she was parked on double yellow lines.
It’s a shame she hurried because she missed out on reason number two that the shop thrives – Peter. The man is a true scent lover who believes in the value of lingering with testers and handing out samples. Shopper number two had called in previously to buy a fragrance (I think it was for her daughter or niece). Instead of hammering a sale, he’d sent her away with samples to be tested, allowing the purchase to be of choice rather than a quick buck for his till. This lady returned to buy the chosen one, a contemporary designer brand, and then came to join me in my ‘Lubin swoon area’ where the three of us had a thoroughly lovely time sniffing from the decadently opulent bottles. I could tell in that instance that she’d be back to buy something spectacular for herself.
Personality and passion is crucial in scent retail, I’m sure we’ve all endured the bored type Sales Assistant bereft of any real passion. Peter reminded me of the wonderful ladies at Manchester’s House of Fraser, who instead of employing teenagers, chose to staff their perfumery with Assistants old enough to have experienced a few decades of great perfumery. My favourite Assistant is an uber glamourous blonde with scarlet lips who personally wears Estee Lauder’s classic leather chypre – Azuree. I can tell her in a meagre few words what atmosphere or concept I’m hoping to write about and she’ll find exactly the right scent for me to sample. She knows and she cares.
Peter also ‘knows’. Whilst playing with the bottles he gave me a whiff of a very popular niche perfume that I won’t name, then followed it with a vastly superior scent that shared some similarities allowing me to compare. I was wowed at the complexity of the second, the recent release by Van Cleef and Arpels – Collection Extraordinaire Precious Oud. Now you know I don’t really ‘do’ oud but this one used it’s precious wood with subtlety, allowing it to dress a composition of incense and white floral notes. Somehow I was smelling an olfactory utopia that was rich with oud and tuberose that didn’t made me gag, in fact it made me sigh wistfully.
The grandest discovery of my morning lay in the introduction to the scents of the historic French brand, Lubin. I’m going to cover a couple of these in a future article so I won’t babble on about them here, but with limited shelf space in the tiny shop, I can see exactly why he selected this brand for his niche chosen few.
Peter's prized vintage possession, brought down from the mysterious 'upstairs'.
Amongst the online community, we tend to be bargain hunters who rarely pay ‘shop price’ for our scents. Rather cheekily, we tend to browse the shops to gain our sniff and then wait for a discount online or a slightly used Ebay bargain. We are different from the average shopper in that our collections are often incongruent to our personal wealth. Average folk with millionaire scent cupboards. However, I think there is still worth in spending some time (and moolah) in an independent real world shop. If only for the fact that the small stock selection has been ‘curated’ by somebody who actually cares about what he’s selling. And if it costs you full price at least you’ll walk away with a pretty bag stuffed full of samples!
Readers, where in the world are your favourite scent shops? Do you have a fabulous dusty rummager full of discontinued gems, or a palace of contemporary creation? Do share your stories in the comments section or over at:
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Contact details for POP: 25 Princess Street • Knutsford • Cheshire • WA16 6BW • 01565 755650
Contact details for POP: 25 Princess Street • Knutsford • Cheshire • WA16 6BW • 01565 755650
Friday, 15 August 2014
Consider Idylle, presuming that numerous Odiferess readers are Guerlain devotees, how many of you actually know what it smells like or own a bottle?
Some time ago I chatted to a Sales Assistant in Selfridges who used to work for Guerlain. We were occupied sniffing niche roses together when she announced that she thought there were none comparable to the beauty of Idylle. Somehow I’d never smelt it despite about 20% of my wardrobe being composed of Guerlain scents.
Why do we ignore this scent?
It could be due to the phenomenon of Wasser-bashing. When Thiery Wasser succeeded Jean Paul Guerlain as In-House Perfumer at Guerlain, he embraced on the terrifying prospect of directing the output of the world’s most revered historic fragrance house. How do you possibly create the next Shalimar, Jicky, Mitsouko or L’Heure Bleue, the fragrances that signify the archetype in a market of stereotypical genre replications and adaptations? Add to this the 1990s acquisition of the brand by LMVH (Luis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) that I suspect necessitated a whopping great output of scents, and we have a very pressurised career. I can’t imagine that LMVH would relish a potentially uncommercial quirky scent that might be a flop, potentially meaning that the innovation of the avante-guarde in line with scents such as Vol De Nuit or Apres L’ Ondee would be undesirable unless marketed as an ‘exclusif’ and priced up accordingly.
Wasser perfects the sniff and pout technique
And then tells someone to do something expressively..
That said, Wasser created a superbly quirky scent in his Acqua Allegoria Flora Nymphea. The name possesses connotations of fairies, watercolour washes and girly stuff, not very appealing to me, the owner of a pair of Doc Martens and a tool box. But the scent! Oh my.. this is a gargantuan wodge of hardcore feral floral sex, perhaps as stonkingly indolic as Fracas (Robert Piguet) or Tuberuese Criminelle (Serge Lutens). I did not expect to be challenged to my floral limit by a scent containing the word Nymph. Wearing it requires one of those ‘safe’ words used by people who practice S&M. I’ve reached my boundary, I need out!
He’s clearly not sitting on the ‘safe’ bench, despite the restrictions of the parent company.
I admit to having developed a whopping great crush on Monsieur Wasser. It’s partly because of his voice, Swiss born, his accented French has a peculiar sweetness a little like when Bjork speaks English with a haywire intonation. Add to this that he looks damn fine in a well cut suit and we have an enigmatic handsome man.
Back to my point. Idylle is an exercise in elegance and simplicity. Released at a time when the perfume world was churning out increasingly lurid exercises in fruity patchoulis, and amber orientals were rising to niche domination, Idylle quietly arrived shouting not very much at all.
For his first large mainstream release within Guerlain, Wasser chose to encompass the history of French perfumery in a bottle. There was however no nod to the Guerlain house style, no powdery iris, no tonka bean and vanilla sweetness, simply the great ‘trilogy’ of Frenchness – rose, jasmine and lily of the valley. With just a little patchouli and musk to earth the composition, Idylle is a thoroughly minimalist chypre.
Of course, in the employ of Guerlain, Wasser could draw on the finest ingredients. Heady Bulgarian roses hand picked at dawn and (in a later ‘Duet’ Flanker) an unusually fruity jasmine sourced from a resurrected plantation in Calabria, meant that simple could be exquisite.
Wasser checks out the rose crop (during my fantasy holiday)
The first appearance of Idylle took the form of an EDP which was followed a year later by an EDT, my favourite of the two formulations. Whilst the EDP possesses the greatest depth of grand patchouli rose, the EDT’s top notes radiate an almighty great whoosh of lilac and lily of the valley. It does not last very long, but that gives me an excuse to spray repeatedly, relishing my hit of intense green florality. Both share a similar heart with the Bulgarian rose sitting majestically dominant. And that’s all it is. Essentially a very good floral chypre with no ringing bells or dancing bears.
As perfume lovers we often yearn to smell the unique, that which smells unlike any other fragrance we’ve encountered before. Idylle doesn’t offer this experience, perhaps that’s why it lacks a vocal following amongst the online perfume community? What it does do however, is present a recognisably ‘French’ composition, an exercise in how to convert classical ingredients into an elegantly understated wonder. As the perfume industry churns out increasingly high numbers of new scents, with superstar perfumers ‘creating’ at record speed, there feels like nowhere else to go in terms of innovation. I am thankful that Monsieur Wasser rejected the notion of a ‘concept’ scent and pared his perfume back to a sumptuous simplicity.
If you would to know more about Wasser’s rise to Guerlain head-honcho (or just want to feast your eyes on him whilst glugging gin and crisps on the sofa), the BBC’s marvelous 3 part documentary on the perfume industry is still available on Youtube. If you input Guerlain + BBC + perfume you should find it.
Rose lovers might also find the following posts interesting:
- Neela Vermeire – Mohur & Scent On Canvas – Rose Opera
- Robert Piguet – Calypso & Parfum D’ Empire Eau Sauve