Wednesday, 3 September 2014

REVIEW: New from Olivier Durbano - Prométhée

Of jeweller / perfumer Olivier Durbano, what can be said by this author, that hasn't already been said? At the peril of sounding like the pom-pom shaking cheersquad for Team Olivier, there is very little the French architect-turned-jeweller can do wrong in my eyes. Not only does he create eye-popping strings of semi-precious stones that adorn the swan-like necks of the Parisian glitterati, but since his first foray into fine fragrance in 2005, to date he has conjured no less than nine exceptional perfumes inspired by the very minerals that enchant his eye. Now, in 2014, Olivier is set to release his 10th scent which will be cast onto the world stage at Pitti Fragranze in Florence this month. 

Sorcery of Scent is delighted to have been given an advance preview of "Prométhée", the latest in Durbano's series of perfumed 'stone poems'.

Prométhée feels very much aligned with its 2013 predecessor Lapis Philosiphorum. Lapis Philosophorum marked something of a departure from the eight fragrances that came before it as it was the first in the series that represented a fictitious stone... a stone of legend. Today, Durbano continues along that same trajectory, leafing through the foxed pages of lore and mythicism to find his inspiration. Prométhée (or Prometheus) is the name of a Titan that fought alongside Zeus and the other Gods in the Olympic pantheon. In one of the ancient Hellenic sagas, Zeus had hidden fire from mankind, but Prometheus stole it back in the form of a giant burning fennel stalk, and returned it to humanity. As punishment for his traitorous actions, Zeus condemned Prometheus to the Kazbek Mountains where he was shackled to a rock to suffer for all eternity as an eagle fed on his liver. As an immortal, his wounds would regenerate each night and Prometheus would wake, only to face the same agonising fate the next day. The legend of Prometheus and this rock has inspirited Monsieur Durbano and culminated in an eau de parfum whose sepia-coloured juice commemorates antiquity. 



Prométhée is a woody scent that has a curious anisic slant. The opening reveals part of the fable... a rich, virescent accord of fennel dominates, and is thick like a woollen mantle. In the perfume's flight, this note darts between the fresh green of parsley and the sweet, licorice-like quality of anise. A deep camphorous sigh of myrtle meets the nose over a scattering of pepper and spice. A broad vein of oliban lends a dryness that - as with all of Durbano's creations - evokes a sense of mineralic earthiness... here is the dusty, parched aspect that is suggestive of stone, and has become Olivier's very own Guerlinade.

The nucleus of this perfume is dense with aromats... dry grey-green sage, silver-leafed lavender and the curry/anise attributes of fenugreek all whisper of perennial shrubs and mountain greens. Resinous accords of storax, labdanum and myrrh in the base lend a rich balsamic complexity, and vetiver and cedar a woodiness that remains on skin for many hours. As with al of Durbano's creations, this one too is genderless... it is proof positive that Olivier is at the top of his game.

When asked about the natural progression of his perfumed Stone Poems, Olivier Durbano comments:

"Lapis Philosophorum, number nine, was a step away from the first, but I always feel a link with the stones. It was a mythic stone, and for me with Prométhée, there is a fine link between mythology, stones and faith, with the light, the fight and the fire. Each creation has a direct link with one year of my life, so it is always an evolution in life to discover myself and most importantly, to share experiences. For me it has been 10 years now, and in the future I will continue to trace my life with Stone Steps".

Olivier's Prométhée will endure, just as the myth has. I'm already intrigued and excited to learn where Durbano will take us next.




Sunday, 27 July 2014

En Vacances


Its finally time to leave the miserable wet and cold of the Perth winter and retreat to warmer climes! 
Mrs Sorcery of Scent and I are heading away on vacation and will return in some weeks with plenty more blog-fodder.

To my wonderful and loyal readers, wherever you are in the world, we wish you a wonderful August!

Monday, 16 June 2014

A mini milestone



On this day, precisely six years ago, I put fingers to keys for the first time and made my first post ever on Sorcery of Scent - it served as a humble plea that I cast off into the ether... one which I never truly knew would be read. To my delight, there was someone listening! 
I'd like to take a moment to thank YOU, my kind and loyal readers without whom this blog simply wouldn't exist! Today, Sorcery of Scent, Australia's first independent perfume blog - steps over the threshold into its 7th year. I'm delighted and humbled that you're out there, and that you see some measure of merit in my arbitrary perfume ponderings.

I salute you!
Dimitri

Friday, 13 June 2014

L'Homme Ideal Giveaway Winners

Thanks to all who entered the Guerlain L'Homme Ideal giveaway!

Today, Sorcery of Scent has drawn 3 winners whom will each receive a carded sample of the exciting new Guerlain masculine.

If you're a winner, please send me a private message on Facebook, or an email to sorceryofscent(at)yahoo(dot)com, and kindly provide me with your full name and preferred postal address!

Stay tuned for more reviews and giveaways soon!
Dimitri.

 

Friday, 6 June 2014

GUERLAIN L'Homme Idéal + GIVEAWAY!


On the whole, I can't say I'm a fan of marketing campaigns that surround a fragrance launch. Of course they can be incredibly successful in attracting a captive audience, but I ask myself "when is enough enough? When does the consumer get savvy? A good campaign can never be underestimated though: look at what Guerlain have done with La Petite Robe Noire for instance - some duo-coloured brushstrokes in fanciful poses have perfumistas clambering over one another to buy the latest bottle. A clever tactic to ensure multiple purchases, but let me ask you: in all honesty, how many more bus stops or billboards depicting little Miss Black Dress can you pass before *actually* considering topping yourself?
Still, the success of the La Petite Robe Noire campaign will be hard to duplicate, and now, as the world anticipates the launch of the first new commercial Guerlain masculine in 6 years; L'Homme Ideal, we have great expectations. And the marketing gurus chez Guerlain know it.

Without writing reams, Guerlain's marketing dept have had something cooking in the pipeline for months... that is the idea of L'Homme Ideal (The Ideal Man) - the man of legend... does he actually exist? Well, frankly this author doesn't care. I don't care for the myth, nor the name, nor the insipid visuals supporting the launch with images of women (all of carefully-considered ethnicities) each wearing black dresses with sensible hemlines. I'm not attracted to it in the least, but then maybe I - with my obvious 'appendage' - am not the demographic they're targeting. Its all lost on me, I'm afraid.

Anyway, I'm not here to grumble... there is a silver lining to this story, and that is my opinion of the packaging and the perfume. Hats off! High fives! Fist bump! (Insert awkward hip-hop handshake here). To my delight, Guerlain have delivered a product that is new and interesting and remains faithful to the brand. Perfumer Thierry Wasser has manifested a fragrance which feels contemporary, but without losing sight of the masculine ancestors that came before it. Presented in a beautiful faceted glass flacon with matte black painted edges, the bottle feels like a natural evolution of the original square Habit Rouge flacon. The graphics on the box look stylish and contemporary, and evoke thoughts of QR Scan barcodes - very much in keeping with modern technology.

From the bottle, L'Homme Idéal has a somewhat unorthodox flight... a zesty citrus note interwoven with oily aromats that are slightly sour in nature. A cursory moment of coniferous berries and crushed rosemary leaves lingers over a curious component that feels slightly plasticy, but not altogether unpleasant. Just as one registers quite a departure from other Guerlain fragrances of the same ilk, this 'fabricated' facet recedes and a slightly milky almond / tonka quality presses up from below. It brings with it a more familiar slightly saccharine accord which feels like sumptuous praline. As the scent takes a turn toward something more rich and complex, a woody/tobaccoey note spreads like a blanket through the composition. It warms well on the skin and is both cedar-like and cigar-like. The bitter/sour notes in L'Homme Idéal's flight never seem to altogether disappear, and this adds an enjoyable, unexpected dimension. It is perhaps amplified as the scent dries down, by a bitter leather note upon which the composition is perched. L'Homme Idéal is sensual and endearing. It feels contemporary, yet somehow customary... very Guerlain, in that regard.


If one is pressed to trace it's ancestry and draw comparisons, where I feel L'Homme Idéal resides in the Guerlain lineup, is somewhere between Heritage and L'Instant Pour Homme. The trio share the same olfactory temperature... it borrows crisp autumnal woody aromatic nuances from the former, and creamier, saccharine tones from the latter. This being said, L'Homme Idéal is sufficiently individual to be enjoyed irrespective of the other pair.

The new Guerlain is due to launch on June 23rd 2014 - just as the European summer takes flight. This is curious to me, as I find L'Homme Idéal er, ideal in the autumnal southern climate right now. It will be presented in 50ml and 100ml sizes with ancillary products offered at select retailers.

GIVEAWAY!

Three Sorcery of Scent readers will each win one carded spray sample of L'Homme Idéal. To enter the draw, simply leave a comment in the comments form below, telling me why you would like to try L'Homme Idéal. 

For an additional chance to win, leave a comment on the Sorcery of Scent facebook page too.

Winners names will be published both here and on Facebook on Friday June 13th.

Good luck!



Friday, 16 May 2014

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Series 3) - Day V: Chypre de Paris

Francois Coty is credited with creating the world's first chypre in 1917 - a scent that altered the course of perfumery forever. Characterised by a citrus top note (usually bergamot), a resinous cistus/labdanum heart and musky, mossy base, perfumes of the 'chypre' category used materials predominantly of Mediterranean style and origin. Curiously, whilst Coty's creation incited something of a chypre movement in perfume circles, the perfume term 'Chypre' had been in use long before Francois' famous formula hit the shelves... case in point: Guerlain, whom at the time had already produced four - Eau de Chypre (1850), Chypre (1887), Cyprisine (1894) and Chypre de Paris (1909). Thanks to the efforts of Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser and his assistant Frederic Sacone who have faithfully restored the latter in 2014 using original ingredients, I am able to describe it for you.

Chypre de Paris (1909), is a Jacques Guerlain creation authored just 10 years prior to Mitsouko - the perfume that is considered Guerlain's quintessential chypre and indeed, one of the world's finest. It is a curious perfume which - whilst not at all a chypre by definition - manages to almost get there in the end. Perhaps one of its most fascinating features is it's unexpected flight of leather and spice... it feels warm and a little bitter, and is imbued with classic notes of bergamot and lavender, although these notes tend to play second fiddle. This slightly acrid sting in the opening remains present from beginning to end - almost acting as a place-holder for a classic chypre component of oakmoss, which is completely absent from this composition. A very Guerlain-esque arrangement of florals (jasmin, iris, ylang-ylang and rose) collude against a more  burly accord comprised of civet, opoponax, patchouli and nutmeg. The sum of these two contrasting facets feels seamless - a fine balance of muted prettiness and woody, earthy brawn. A departure from "regular" chypres, the trail feels somewhat sweeter... vanilla and musks dominate.

If a classic chypre is measured by a distinct contrast between fresh cirtus topnotes and a woody, mossy base, then Chypre de Paris does not conform. There is insufficient bergamot and zero oakmoss present. However, there is a general sense that it was heading in the right direction, even if the very perfume that defined the category hadn't been conceived yet. When measured against the glorious evergreen citrus peachiness of Mitsouko with its parched mossy / musky base, it is easy to understand why Chypre de Paris might have been retired in favour of Guerlain's enduring perfume pillar and 'Grand Dame'. Nevertheless, this perfume is a fascinating interpretation on a theme that later, took the world by storm.

This concludes Series 3 of "5 rare Guerlains in 5 Days".
If there is any interest in a fourth series, kindly leave a comment.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Series 3) - Day IV: Candide Effluve


Hindsight is an incredible thing. When we study the rich Guerlain timeline here in 2014, we are able to contrast and compare, to draw parallels and recognise patterns which, at another time, might not have appeared as conspicuous. For a house with more than 700 perfumes to their credit - each one a single daub of paint on a vast canvas - we glean a greater understanding of the artwork when we view it from afar.
Just as Sorcery of Scent has looked at post-wartime perfume models in my article earlier this week, today's perfume,  Candide Effluve (Innocent Emination) - a Jacques Guerlain creation of 1922 - is another telling creation from the Guerlain archive. Candide Effluve places a marker precisely between  two distinct periods... the Art Nouveau era (1880 - ca. 1916), and the Art Deco age (ca. 1924-1940).

In aesthetic terms, what we know about the Art Nouveau movement is its somewhat bohemian inclination towards organic lines and natural forms. Art Deco on the other hand, celebrated lavish ornamentation and bold geometric shapes. Compare, for example, the flacon 'bouchon cœur' created originally for L'Heure Bleue (1912) with it's curved heart-shaped stopper and gently spiralling shoulders; to the iconic 'flacon tabatière' produced to house Liu (1929) whose square-shouldered black glass form is resolutely Art Deco in style. Candide Effluve, presented in the smoky Baccarat 'brun fume' flacon seems to sit somewhere in between... its shape suggestive of a piece of fruit or the human form, but with hard, faceted edges.
Of course, not only does it's appearance straddle the line between the two design philosophies, but the perfume it holds does too.

Candide Effluve retains a good measure of pre-war conservatism... a little of that wistful poetry á la L'Heure Bleue. Jacques Guerlain has re-used a number of components common to his Belle Epoque / Art Nouveau creations (not least heliotrope, violet, iris and rose which feature heavily in his earlier compositions), but has also managed to give his new creation a sense of Art Deco opulence and optimism.

A sunny and spirited flight of lilac and violet feels fresh, vibrant and youthful, but underneath, the heliotrope seems to tether it to a more mature space. Lily-of-the-valley and jasmine lend a bright, distinctly feminine feel, however a spreading cloud of patchouli and benzoin bring it back to ground again. Perhaps one of the more prominent components is ylang-ylang - it feels spicy, lavish and luxurious... a flash of gold in the shadows. It cavorts and beckons over a delectable vanilla / ambery trail.

Candide Effluve is a scent that shows some restraint, and I can't help but imagine a young girl born to very conservative parents who has just come of age and is dying to throw on her flapper dress and go out dancing. It feels like a perfume that darts between cautious maturity and reckless juvenescence. It might have been Jacques Guerlain's intention to have this perfume appeal to women of any age... those with one foot planted in yesterday, or one foot planted in tomorrow. Whatever the truth, it takes a clear snapshot of its time; an important transitional period when philosophies and ideologies were being refashioned.

Tomorrow's review: Chypre de Paris (1909)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Series 3) - Day III: Fleur Qui Meurt


As a young boy, I grew up in a home curated and decorated with mother's federation-style tastes. An old Singer sewing machine sat atop a cast iron base in our den; sombre floral prints in heavy jacquard adorned sofas and windows, and porcelain Victorian dolls gazed blankly at Art Nouveau wallpaper from turn-of-the-century prams. A large hand-turned wooden plinth stood in the corner of our lounge that held a broad woven basket full of dried roses... mother had collected them as glorious fresh stems and hung them upside down for weeks until their brittle moistureless corpses could be added to the pile. Peculiarly, those fresh thousand-coloured blossoms that once dazzled the eye, when left to dry, shrivelled into a restrained palette of burgundy and ecru. What I remember most about this boneyard of flowers (besides mother occasionally dusting them with a hairdryer), is their odour. The velvety sweet perfume of the juvenile blooms had long gone, replaced instead with the stink of decayed organic matter that to my nose, was two parts repulsive to one part fascinating. Occasionally, if I felt brave, I would lean over them and sniff timidly, repelled by their fetor and yet somehow attracted to their unusual aroma of tea grounds and subtle spices. As a direct result of this vivid recollection from my youth, I have always been attracted by the name of Guerlain's turn-of-the-century perfume "Fleur Qui Meurt" (A Dying Flower). Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of Guerlain nose Thierry Wasser and his assistant, Frederic Sacone, I am now able to indulge my curiosity and experience this scent just as it  existed in 1901.


Jacques Guerlain's Fleur Qui Meurt is an example of Guerlain's consummate artistry. Whilst the vast majority of perfumers working at the turn of the last century were still marketing soliflores or attempting to capture the true essence of various blossoms, Jacques was turning the very idea of perfume on it's head by creating a scent that honoured the end of life. Perhaps inspired by something as simple as a vase of wilting flowers, or maybe as life-altering as an experience from his personal life, we will never truly know... but this fragrance is an artful rendering of blossoms as they wither and die. His composition opens with a glorious violet which is not too far removed in style from Aprés l'Ondée, a scent that he was to author just 5 years later... but perhaps one that feels somewhat less cold and damp. The violet here is robust and has been warmed by the sun, and is underpinned by leafy green notes that have a similar velvety, nectar-like texture. This is the flower in full bloom. But mere minutes in, the flight takes a gentle downward turn and the violet disintegrates... still present, but flailing somewhat, like the perishing prima ballerina in a production of Swan Lake. A lilac-white coloured ribbon of iris lends a husky, dry quality to the composition, and darker, earthier accords begin to seep in. Dry vetiver and dirty patchouli hint at decaying roots that have been torn from the earth, whilst a rising mantle of musk lends a distinctly organic feel.

Here is where Fleur Qui Meurt begins to defy description... it becomes a quickstep of beauty and fragility... fluttering petals and writhing stems seem to sense the inevitable coming. There is a luke-warm almost salty quality in its trail... it suggests a long expulsion of breath; a final sigh from which there is no coming back.

Jacques Guerlain's study has resulted in a very thought-provoking creation - one that traces the cycle of life from beginning to end. It's beauty perhaps lies in the futile struggle between life and death, and succumbing to the inescapable. As we all are destined to eventually follow the same course, I can help but feel Fleur Qui Meurt might have been intended more as a metaphor for humanity. All will fade in the end.

Tomorrow's review: Candide Effluve (1922)


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Series 3) - Day II: Cachet Jaune


1937 marks the year perfume heir Jean-Paul Guerlain was born... the baby boy who was to grow into the man who would be the fourth successor to the title of Master Perfumer at Maison Guerlain. It is alleged that Cachet Jaune - a Jacques Guerlain creation - was created as a gift for Jean-Paul's mother the very same year. Produced solely in an eau de cologne concentration and presented in the now-iconic watchface-style 'flacon montre' (later used to house a variety of Guerlain eaux de colognes), it is fascinating to discover that contemporary Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser and his assistant, Frederic Sacone have reprised Cachet Jaune for visitors to experience at the Guerlain boutique in Paris, in pure parfum form.

The author never had the honour of sniffing the somewhat diaphanous eau de cologne, but Cachet Jaune the parfum has immediate presence. A brisk aromatic green flight of rosemary and citrus rush over the receptors when this is first applied to skin... it feels verdant and succulent to the nose. A candy-like undercurrent of vanilla shifts the parfum's flight from a 'cologney' treatment, to something more saccharine... one's mind can't help but wander back along the Guerlain timeline and recall the pastry-like deliciousness of L'Heure Bleue, but here - albeit somewhat cursory - there is a sensation of delicious, zesty lemon curd. But all at once, just as one starts to succumb to it's ambrosial gourmand qualities, a titanic note of carnation shifts forward, pressing up from below with its heart-swelling combustable warmth and peppery prickle of spices... it is carnation in profusion; a multitude of crepe-like ruffled petals releasing their bold, commanding perfume.


This astonishing carnation is underpinned by signature Guerlain florals (jasmine, iris and rose, which indeed feature heavily in the Guerlain DNA)... but a generous measure of musk at its core pulls the composition away from a resolutely feminine bouquet and gives rise to a coarser, more physical facet. These delightful components simmer over a classic Guerlain foundation comprising amber, vanilla and tonka.

After some hours, as the last remaining molecules of perfume evaporate from skin, I crave the sweet aromatic spiced floral aspects that were so abundant in the beginning. I long for those generous sunny hues that seduced my nose - as it did Jean-Paul's mother's - so many decades ago.

Such a pity that Cachet Jaune never appeared resurrected next to Vega and Sous le Vent in their most recent incarnations, as was originally intended. For lovers of carnation, and for those simply hankering for a unique olfactory snapshot of the 1930's, Cachet Jaune has it in spades.

Tomorrow's Review: Fleur Qui Meurt (1901)

Monday, 12 May 2014

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Series 3) - Day I: Atuana


This week Sorcery of Scent will reprise its "5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days" series, in which we focus on one scarce perfume each day for five days from the house of Guerlain, that are either inaccessible to many or simply lost to the sands of time.


In 2014, Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser and his assistant Frederic Sacone set to work examining antique Guerlain texts in an effort to unravel the Guerlain DNA. In doing so, they have resurrected 25 parfums from Maison Guerlain's sweeping timeline and have recreated them faithfully so that they smell today precisely as they would have up to 140 years ago. Limitations on the use of specific raw materials have rendered these perfumes (in their original form) not suitable for sale, however they can be experienced on paper mouillettes at Guerlain's flagship boutique at 68 Champs-Elysées or at L'Osmotheque in Versailles.

At a closed-door event held at Guerlain in April of this year, an intimate group of 12 hand-picked bloggers were invited to explore and discuss these perfumes at length with Guerlain's messieurs Wasser and Sacone and mesdames Delacourte and Pichard. Each participant received as a gift, an exquisitely presented coffret containing 25 x 7.5ml pure parfum samples of the restored perfumes. Sorcery of Scent was a humble recipient of this coffret, and it is from this source that the "5 Rare Guerlains..." series will be sampled.

Today, Jacques Guerlain's mid-century masterpiece Atuana (1952).


In the years immediately following a World War, there has always been a visceral sense of optimism that penetrates the global psyche. Mankind looks to the future to reaffirm for ourselves that wartime horrors are behind us. This becomes evident in many areas... fashion, architecture, furniture design and indeed, perfume.

After the atrocities of The Great War, scores of perfume houses embraced fresh, new sanguine perfume themes, and for Jacques Guerlain, he found far-flung exotic landscapes his muse. Sous le Vent (1932) transported us to the breezy tropical Antilles and Vol de Nuit (1933) on a moonlit equatorial night flight. Both  embodied this renewed sense of hope where freedom and aspiration resonated with the world.

Similarly, in the years following World War II, an almost identical strategy was employed. For Atuana - one of Guerlain's first major commercial releases after the war - Jacques Guerlain took influence from the life of painter Eugene Henri Paul Gauguin who spent his last years living and working in French Polynesia. For Gauguin - and perhaps Jacques - the island of Tahiti offered boundless colour and inspiration. This being said, however,  Atuana is not necessarily what one might imagine it to be. One could expect the perfume of tropical blooms ablaze with colour, or the scent of salty air and dappled sunshine, but Atuana is devoutly less vivacious.

Still clinging on to a sense of war-time sombreness, yet perhaps offering a tiny inclination towards the more spirited releases that lay just over the horizon (such as Chant d'Aromes, Nahema and Chamade), Atuana is a scent of contradiction. Her semi-herbaceous opening of lavender and timeless aromats feels resolutely classical in its approach (including a familiar anise-like note that is present in other Guerlains) and yet in the same moment she feels even-handedly contemporary. The unusual flight gives rise to a heart that diverges down two distinct paths... one littered with soft jasmine petals and lily, and the other a darker, more earthy avenue where vetiver and leather play an integral role. Whilst marketed to women, Atuana's inclination is perhaps more to the masculine side than the feminine as these more robust, elemental facets take root. The astonishing leathery nucleus is a far cry from the stinging, tarry smokiness of Guerlain's Cuir de Russie... rather, it is a striking ashen leather... one dusted with a film of powdery grey cinders. To that length, it is interesting to examine Atuana advertising from the 1950's, specifically those picturing the repeated use of ash-coloured stone as a major design element. This ashen, almost incense-like quality, perfumes the skin long into the drydown.

Whilst my mind tries to draw parallels between what I smell and what I know about French Polynesia, all I find is disparity. I can't forge any true connection between the pair - nothing obvious at least - but what I do recognise is that Atuana and Ode, launched just 3 years later, both stand astride two major periods in world history. One is the fragile boundary between WWII and the suspension of hostilities, and the other; the end of Jacques Guerlain's reign as master perfumer before an enthusiastic young Jean-Paul ascended to the throne.


Tomorrow's review: Cachet Jaune (1937)