Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Review: Pure Distance - Antonia and Opardu, and why florals are the height of current creativity.


Cornelis De Heem - Bird with Flowers

Florals are a contentious genre. Many believe them be blousy and old fashioned. Others worship their photorealistic replication of natural petals or abstract concepts of voluptuous gardens and wild pastures. Me? I’m a convert.

After a recent glut of copycat amber orientals and ouds, florals seem to be the genre where creativity and originality now abound. It’s quite possible to find a floral that doesn’t smell like anything else that has already been bottled. Perhaps the best example of this is Olivia Giacobetti’s creation for Frederic Malle – En Passant. I’m yet to smell lilac, wheat and cucumber prettily sharing space in anybody else’s creation, and it’s a masterwork.

Another perfume house that has cheered my nose with a truly original treat is Pure Distance. Founded in The Netherlands, Pure Distance are an indie brand producing highly concentrated perfumes that reek of opulence. It would be unseemly to nip out for a pint of milk in your grubby joggers wearing a Pure Distance scent, they demand your finest threads and a full face of make up.  

For me, the greatest of the line are two scents composed by New Yorker- Annie Buzantian. Perhaps her urbanization initiated the desire to create symphonic florals in contrast to the city grime? Her creations - Opardu and Antonia, are characterized by complex constructions of many layers. There is no specific ‘flower smell’, more a multi-faceted abstraction of a floral mood that I feel are best described by looking at paintings.

Opardu is a grand floral with a dominant lilac note. Voluptuous and more than a bit slutty, it highlights the sensual side of florality, with ripe open blooms begging for the bees to ‘come pollinate me'. Lilac frequently appears in cool, wistful and romantic compositions, tending to be delicate and gentile in nature. In Opardu it is joined by a sisterhood of bigger boobed flowers, all weeping their indolic fecundity. Jasmine, tuberose, Bulgarian rose, gardenia, carnation (adding a spicy quality), they are all present, celebrating the joys of being a whopping great mass of delicious heady gunk. 

Pandora - Odilon Redon

In Odilon Redon’s 1914 painting of the mythical Pandora, I smell Opardu. Of the painting, the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art describes:
“Here, he represented Pandora—the exquisite woman fashioned from clay by Vulcan and sent to earth by Jupiter—as a graceful nude amid a profusion of flowers. Her innocence still intact, Pandora cradles in her arms the box that, when opened, will unleash all the evils destined to plague mankind, thereby bringing to an end the legendary Golden Age.”
A profusion of flowers indeed. This technicolour floral spectacle (and in particular the oddly animalic oversized snap dragon type bloom in the right of the foreground) speak of decadent temptations, a landscape awaiting an event, a chaotic potential. With this in mind, I have marked Opardu as a magnificent seduction scent. That with which you would anoint yourself prior to unleashing chaos on your lover’s heart!

In contrast, Antonia is a floral of cool intentions. She is an ivy draped ethereal character who conjures a rain sodden landscape of picturesque melancholy. Sap fuelled green florals are my current favourite genre, capable of summoning the outdoors in, they evoke in me an otherworldly serenity that belongs far away from my urban life. Opening with the vivid green bite of galbanum, Opardu is uplifting and spiritual depicting spring’s abundant fertility in full force. Subtle hints of jasmine and ylang appear in the heart contributing a necessary creamy florality that serves to round off the spiky green opening. With orris root and vetiver nestling underneath, further enhancing the earthy qualities of Opardu, it has signified another fantastical forest scent to me. 

Camille Pissarro - The Road

In Camille Pissarro’s ‘The Road’ of 1870, we see a lone figure walking through an arcade of trees adorned heavily with leaves. The long shadows hint at an early morning stroll, a time in which the breeze would carry the scent of the wooded landscape with piecing clarity, long before the rays of the midday sun could muffle the olfactory acoustics. In similarity to the smell of Antonia, the painting has a contemplative and lonesome feel, creating a quiet space in which to allow our thoughts to wander. This is not the scent of seduction, it is the scent of meditation.

Curiously, Annie Buzantian is the nose behind a now departed fragrance that I long to smell - Forest Lily by Avon. If any of my readers have a little juice left I would dearly love to get my nose around it. 

If you've enjoyed this bloom filled post you may like to read these ones too:

On white florals and my (now conquered) jasminophobia and the state of my childhood rollerboots, including Miller Harris - La Pluie and Trish Mc Evoy - Gardenia Musk 



Saturday, 21 February 2015

Review: Carthusia - Numero Uno, The Aromatic Meets Modernity



Carthusia's wonderful logo - Karma Sutra for Botanists

At last, winter is creeping back to it’s fearsome lair and my frozen battered nose has begun to function again enabling me to write about one of my favourite genres, the ‘aromatics’.

The aromatic scent is typified by a profusion of culinary and medicinal herbs, often accompanied by citrus and woody notes that remind us of warmer climates. A successful aromatic evokes an olfactory journey to a picturesque Mediterranean landscape. A failed one makes us smell like a Greek salad. Aromatic fragrant waters were produced long ago, with one of the eldest being Santa Maria Novella’s Acqua di Colognia which was created in 1533. It thrills me to imagine that many of today’s traditional eau de colognes continue to utilise ingredients once grown by monks in cloister gardens. History in a bottle.

A historic cloister herb garden

Numero Uno, the 2007 launch from Italian perfumery – Carthusia, is a fine example of aromatic splendour.

In recent years, our noses have become used to what the online community term ‘beast mode’ scents i.e. those whiffable from many metres away and more tenacious that a cat protecting it’s catch of part of a chewed off vole’s leg. Arising from a trend of heavy amber orientals, patchoulis and Arabian perfumery influences, these uber strong scents have led many people to be unimpressed by more subtle and fleeting aromatic and citrus scents, judging them to have ‘poor performance’ in comparison. You can understand their point as being able to actually smell your perfume is an important factor!

Numero Uno bridges the gap between the delicate (and sometimes fleeting) nature of the traditional aromatic and the more contemporary tastes of the ‘beast’ lovers. It does this with the inclusion of a dominant patchouli note, which alongside stabilising woody and balsamic base notes, gives it a rich and long lasting density that will appeal to both the traditionalists and a modern audience.


So what does it actually smell like?

‘Appealingly therapeutic’ is my primary impression. A strikingly natural blend of herbs and citruses imparts an uplifting sensation that is typical of its genre. With this in mind, it reminds me of the iconic Clarins ‘treatment’ fragrance – Eau Dynamisante in that there is a distinct mood elevation associated with its application. Interestingly, I can also smell one of my favourite quirky notes from childhood, that of Creosote, the sticky wood protector that gave me enormous olfactory pleasure when my Dad treated our garden fence in the summer months. I notice this also in Heeley’s Le Tigre and in Penhaligon’s Bayolea. The patchouli note is almost ‘savoury’ alongside it’s companions. With an absence of any sweetness, it takes patchouli into aromatherapeutic territory rather than oriental cosiness or chypre grandeur.



Carthusia have thankfully priced it at a reasonable cost, with 100 ml currently retailing for 75 Euro on their website. As I become increasingly more aghast by the spiralling cost of fragrance, it’s pleasing to see that Carthusia are selling significantly under the £1 per ml mark.

Although marketed to the male customer, Numero Uno is appealing to my feminine nose and I’d happily anoint myself with it without any fear of an overly butch aura.

If you’re a fan of the aromatic you might like to read my article on Nobile 1942 and the fine ankles of Jude Law. Patchouli lovers can read about hippy heritage in my rave review of Jovoy Psychedelique.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Guest Writing - A Fragrant Fairy Tale, The Power of Perfume by Viv Lowery


This week, fiction writer and poet - Viv Lowery, brings us a fragrant fairy tale. A treat to read to our future perfumistas in bed tonight...



THE POWER OF PERFUME

There was once a  king who ruled over a very unusual kingdom called Perfumia whose subjects had developed, over the years, a remarkable sense of smell.  They were acutely aware of the power of different fragrances.  Every family had their own small perfumery and knowledge of essences and herbs passed down through the generations.  Each one prided themselves on their superior knowledge and skills in this all important area.

The king being wise encouraged and shared their passion and, to this end, held a huge competition every year to find the best perfume produced in the nation.  Not only was the winner rewarded with the recognition of their supremacy in this most important sphere but they were also appointed as the King’s personal perfumier for the following year, a position conferring great status and power.

In the months leading up to the competition a veil of secrecy descended over Perfumeria, every family working hard to perfect their blend of ingredients without alerting their competitors.  Herbs were gathered in the dark of night and family members were sent far and wide to search for new and powerful scents.  It was not unknown for the weaker or lazier families to steal ideas or even essences from their more skilful neighbours and guards were set throughout the night to ensure this didn’t happen.

As competition day approached activity reached fever pitch, each family determined to win and prove themselves the best in the land.  The king himself judged and, thus, the perfumiers made a close study of his preferences in past years and any experiences he may have had which might influence his choice.  For example, if he had visited nearby lands where exotic spices were used they may be tempted to channel their perfume in that direction.  If he had spent time on the coast they might devise a scent incorporating these smells.

The king loved his wife dearly and this year they had become the proud parents of a baby girl they had named Fragrancia.  She was a beautiful and happy child who brought them a great deal of joy. The king was looking forward to taking her to the competition for the first time so that everyone could admire her and on the morning of the event he had her dressed in her finest clothes.  

The first perfumier approached and presented his family’s fragrance for consideration.  The king smiled politely, savoured the fragrance and made note for marking later.  So the competition continued throughout the day with perfume after perfume being considered.  The king showed no preference throughout the proceedings.  He may have had his favourites but wanted the result to be a complete surprise.  

Towards the end of the day an unusual competitor entered the fray, one who had not taken part before.  The king was very surprised to recognise the son of one of his wife’s handmaidens.  He couldn’t remember the woman’s name or her function within his household but he had seen the lad around the palace helping out. The young boy approached the king shyly and offered up his contribution. ‘Hello young man, this must be the first time you have entered the competition.  The boy nodded without speaking, waiting for the king to try the fragrance.  The king looked puzzled.  The boy was very young and, since he lived in the palace with his mother would have no access to the knowledge, experience or skills required to produce a successful perfume.  There were established families who contested the prize every year but the boy belonged to none of them.  The king carefully opened the glass stopper of the primitive container and gingerly sniffed its contents.  After a second he took a further sniff then another.  A smile began to spread across his face and he positively beamed.  

The crowd watching this amazing spectacle gasped in surprise.  This had never happened before. No reaction had ever been shown by the king during the competition.  It was unheard of and the perfumiers watching were not amused. They had expected this upstart’s perfume to be dismissed as inferior rather than so obviously enjoyed by the king.  They were even more annoyed when the king held up his hand and announced ‘The competition is over.  This is the winner, holding the boy’s vial up high.  I have never in my life smelled such a wonderful fragrance!!’  The perfumiers were horrified but he was the king so they could do no more than march out of the palace in disgust at this insult.

After the dust had settled several of the most experienced among them set out to discover more about the king’s new choice and the nature of the winning fragrance.  What they found out startled them at first but then filled them with admiration for the young boy and his inventiveness.  His mother was nursemaid to the young princess and had gathered over the year essence of sweet baby smells that her son had combined into the winning entry.  If the king wished to be reminded of his precious child when he was away from the palace and was  greatly missing his family, he had only to open the stopper on that bottle to be reminded once more of his precious child and smile again.
Viv Lowery 2015


Viv is a member of the Bare Writers collective, who have recently published an eclectic anthology of poetry and literary fiction named High Tide. You can preview and purchase High Tide on Amazon by following the link below.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Little Cat With A Surprising Belly - Avon Occur, Vintage Civet


My little stinker

The most thoroughly obsessed of the perfume community will understand that a scent purchase often stems from a peculiar chain of events that takes place online. The route that led me from Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit to a 40 year old Avon pussycat can be explained thus:

  • My beloved Vol de Nuit EDT had almost run out.
  • I searched the Escentual sale to price up a new bottle but was seduced by my long yearned love - the Parfum Extrait.
  • Whilst waiting for my golden propellers to arrive I perused the web to read discussions about the extrait concentration of  Vol de Nuit and noticed that Avon’s classic cheapo chypre – Timeless has been likened to Vol.
  • I performed an Ebay search for Timeless and discovered that it was winsomely populated by the kitsch novelty bottles of vintage Avon colognes from the 60s and 70s, Timeless, Occur, Moonwind, Charisma and Sweet Honesty were abundant.
  • I encountered a curious little glass cat who had no box and despite being nearly full of ‘Occur’ was likely to have gone off given that he’s roughly my age, perhaps older. I found him charming and bought him simply for his quirky feline wiles.
  • He arrived, he hadn’t gone off.


I was stunned. I even emailed to seller to ask the provenance of the whiffy feline. Apparently he came from an elderly aunt who collected cat figures. She must have displayed him so I can only guess that the opaque milk glass bottle somehow managed to deflect the ravages of light and kept his liquid belly in tip top condition.

He’s very pungent. On first whiff I smelt an archetypal fougère, so close to Brut that I wondered if the splash-on style hole could have been refilled at some point? Comparing notes on Fragrantica, the similarity could be explained. Both share a whopping dose of oakmoss, musks and bergamot, peppery floral notes (carnation for Occur, geranium for Brut), plentiful herbs and spices and a sweet base of all sorts of sticky tonka-tastic and honeyed wonders.



When the initial Brut sensation wore off, up crept (or pounced) the feral animalistic heart of the fragrance for which it is famed; civet and (the now banned) nitromusks. I knew at this point that I was certainly smelling the wondrous filth that is Occur.

If you’ve ever smelt Francis Kurkdijan’s Absolue Pour Le Soir or Parfum D’ Empire’s Musc Tonkin, you’ll recognize the heady whiff of animalic uber-notes. In fact Occur contains an even stronger dose of ‘eau de urinal’ than either of them. It takes at least half an hour for it to emerge, but when it does I am walloped by the wonder of pre-IFRA fragrant toxicity. I am very happy to poison my skin with this stinking brew. Fortunately, a creamy combination of white florals and milky sandalwood sit alongside this pissy whiff, recalling aspects of Arpege and Ma Griffe that render it more splendid than rancid.

Fittingly, my first ever perfume was by Avon. I can't remember which one as I was less than ten years old. My mum sold Avon and gifted me a plastic daisy shaped brooch filled with a solid scent that I recall smelling deliciously of honeysuckle. Perhaps Avon was responsible for the inception of my obsession?

My lucky American readers will be able to pick up these quirky Avon vintages for a mere few dollars on the USA Ebay site. They are collectible but not valuable given the enormous number of them produced in the 60s and 70s. In Europe prices are a little higher given that, although very common, Avon was not quite as mightily prolific over here. 

Take a peak at these curious Avon creatures lifted shamelessly from Ebay, I wonder what scented wonders their bellies contain?







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Saturday, 3 January 2015

2014 - My Year In Perfume, Moments Of Beauty In A Saturated Market


Looking back over my 2014 fragrance habit, I’m reminded of a feature written by Tania Sanchez in Perfumes, The A-Z guide. Sanchez describes her concept of our journey through a fragrance obsession in 6 specific stages leading from the childhood curiosity of our parent’s fragrances through to an enlightened conclusion. In this, the 6th and final stage, she suggests that we might experience:

“Stage 6: Enlightenment.
Absence of ideology. Distrust of the overelaborate, overexpensive and arcane. Satisfaction in things themselves”.

This resonates with me.

In 2014 I was grateful to get my nose around a number of inventive and complex creations from the world of ‘niche’ fragrance (whatever that words means nowadays). However, I smelt a much larger number of ‘The Emperor’s new clothes’. By this I mean the fragrances that were churned into the market at high prices and high speed, often trading on the concept of ‘niche’ to justify the hoohaa. People talked about them and bought them. No doubt caught in the decadent grip of Sanchez’s earlier Stage 5:

"Stage 5: Decadence.
An ideology of taste, either of the heavy-handed or the barely there. The age of leathers, patchoulis, tobaccos, ambers; or, alternatively, the age of pale watercolours in vegetal shades. An obsession with the hard to find."

In 2014, brands that were initially marketed to the wealthy Middle Eastern consumer continued to be devoured by folk on ordinary incomes as online discussion groups were often dominated by ‘an ideology of taste’ that favoured the skilfully manipulated desire for the ‘private blend or the exclusif’. Additionally, some superstar perfumers increased the number of products in their own ranges at flabbergasting speed. This led to vast spending, often resulting in fragrance fans leaving Facebook groups to avoid the excessive shopping temptation created by discussions (and then giving in and coming back again such was the lure!).

The sheer number of 2014 releases from niche brands meant that many scents replicated what we have already smelt before. I found myself opening sample packages without the thrilling anticipation of the possibility that they could contain some sort of nose nirvana. This is not a good mental state for a perfume blogger!

However, it wasn’t all bleak.

Occasionally I’ll smell a perfume that penetrates my imagination so thoroughly that I can type up an article swiftly and with great excitement. Others require much pondering and a painful number of hours at the screen. When I smelt the smouldering Anubis by Papillon Artisan Perfumes, the imagery it created for me was instant and exhilarating. It was by far the most thrilling post to write this year. Click here to take a peek at David Hemmings’ marvellously wild face, some fatally seductive sirens and one of the most successful indie releases of the year.
Danger for lost seamen - Anubis

Thrills aside, my favourite article of the year was my post on Guerlain’s understated masterpiece - Idylle. I believe this rarely discussed scent is deserved of the accolades that Guerlain’s stable of historic classics receive in profusion. Click here to read why I thought it to be the misunderstood outsider.



The relationship between fragrance, music and celebrity continued to excite me as my imagination frequently allotted a musician to my perception of a scent. The gargantuan floral punch of Byredo – Flowerhead brought indie powerhouse singer Beth Ditto to mind which resulted in one of the odder of the Odiferess reviews. Whilst Nobile 1942 – Infinito evoked decadent sensations of late nice dancing in the woods at summer music festivals.

Betto Ditto in technicolour

My own wardrobe in 2014 gained some pleasing additions, with an increased fascination for floral, green and aldehyde notes occurring. My most appreciated new entry was Clinique - Wrappings, an overwhelmingly picturesque outdoorsy whiff, sparkling with aldehydes and unlike anything I’ve ever smelt in a perfume bottle. Its originality was amplified by my perceived stagnation of the overfilled market. That Clinique have not released this scent on their standard counters is bizarre.

The feeling of Wrappings, a bracing bottle of oxygen and nature

More greenery arrived in the form of a new bottle of Guerlain - Vol De Nuit, when I say ‘a bottle’ I actually mean the extraordinary object of great glassy desire that is the Parfum Extrait. Whilst I adored my (nearly empty) EDT, I felt a compulsion to be able to hold this gilt propellored creature in my hands and stare lovingly at it whilst anointing myself. I wasn’t disappointed.
My pretty thing

I clearly went through some sort of ‘grown up lady’ phase befitting for my forties as I frequently reached for Lanvin - Arpege, Chanel – No 5, Van Cleef & Arpels - First and Lubin - Nuit de Longchamp. Interestingly, my new job in September inspired me to dress with increased sophistication for work and make the effort to apply make up at stupid-o-clock in the morning. Perhaps these scents helped me to feel suitably groomed?

To round up, here is a list of my most frequently worn and adored scents of 2014 (you can click on those in a different colour to read a review) :

Gucci – EDP (The discontinued caraway & leather oriental)
Guerlain – Vol de Nuit
Chanel – 31 Rue Cambon (which has now been outdone by a last days of December purchase of the blissful Cuir de Russie)
Lanvin – Arpege
Yves Rocher – Voile D’ Ambre


And a list of those which I do not yet own but seduced me at first whiff:

Scent on Canvas – Brun Sicilien
Guerlain – Idylle (in EDP form)
Clinique – Aromatics in White
Narciso Rodriguez For Her – Musc Eau de Parfum Intense (the flanker with the dusky pink metallic bottle that smells oddly like the opening of Serge Lutens – Tuberuese Criminelle)
Serge Lutens – L’ Orpheline
Hermes – Santal Massoia
Parfums Nicolai – Maharanih
Chanel – Jersey


As I consider my 2015 articles for Odiferess, I shall be searching for the magnificent amongst the mediocre and aim to bring you some reviews of genuinely innovative scents. As usual I’ll be letting my imagination investigate some eclectic cultural nonsense in which to tell you about them! In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your favourite scents of the year.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A Merry Smelly Christmas!

I would like to wish my readers a wonderful Christmas and a very happy and fortune filled New Year! Thank you for your support over the year, which is crucial to keep up my enthusiasm. It is most appreciated.

I shall return in the New Year with a report on what fragrances made my nose quiver with joy throughout 2014. Until then, take a peak at these beautiful 1950s festive Lanvin adverts.





Merry Christmas!

Prize Winner - The Library of Fragrance, Eggnog Decant

winning-ticket

Congratulations Aaron Streets! 

You have won a decant of the Eggnog fragrance. Please send me your address for the package and it will be on it's way to you soon.