Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Guerlain: Mon Exclusif - looking for a low GI option?

"Mon Exclusif" is the newest perfume release by French perfumers Guerlain... a name which feels as all-encompassing as it does maddeningly vague. It would appear that the LVMH marketing machine behind the brand are cashing in on the concept of "exclusivity for all" with this affordable fragrance that asks you to christen it with your very own title. 

Mon Exclusif comes presented in a clear glass flacon which is a modern rendition of the gilded bow-tie bottle made famous in the 1930s to house "Coque d'Or" and "Dawamesk". With it, Guerlain have provided a sealed packet of adhesive silver letters which you can use to personalise your bottle. This is a nice idea in theory, but in reality, yours truly dislikes the cheapness of the letterforms and indeed their gargantuan size, which frustratingly would make it quite impossible for me to name my dream scent Doppelganger or Onomatopoeia. Aside from this shortcoming, the bottle itself is prettiness personified; its facets outlined in silver to underline further an après-Deco feel.

So how does it smell? Well off the bat, whoever suggested it is a modern, sweeter version of Jicky needs some significant rhinoplasty. Granted, a huff of aromatic lavender in its flight may be a common accord shared between Mon Exclusif and the House's afore-mentioned 126 year old giant, but the similarities distinctly end there. Mon Exclusif is sweet... tooth-achingly sweet. If you have an aversion to the candied purple buzz of Insolence or the fudge-dense chewiness of the L'Art et Matiere offerings, then Mon Exclusif will raise your glucose levels through the roof! Sweet mandarin and zesty bergamot meet the nose, followed by a familiar candied almond accord which one can find in both L'Homme Ideal and LPRN... this is wrapped in lavender sugar and nectar-like solar accords that I sense present perhaps in Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia. Bittersweet iris and clean white musk are combined with a burnt sugar accord, the sum of which act as a fondant poured generously over the whole composition. It is this sticky vanilla/toffee that lingers on skin and in the nose for many hours.

If I'm honest, I can't say I understand Guerlain's fondness for the slew of gourmand creations leaving their factory in abundance of late. Whilst Mon Exclusif is pretty and sure to become a favourite for some, a part of me would certainly give my left gonad to welcome a new mainstream chypre to the Guerlain portfolio... one devoid of a single sugar-dusted almond, nutty praline or saccharine pink berry. 

Mon Exclusif will surely charm perfume laypersons, but I predict that serious perfumisti will be left wanting more than a pretty collectable for their scented treasury.
Available now from

Monday, 27 April 2015

Guerlain: Les Colognes, 2015

With the onset of the Northern Spring, Guerlain have released a duo of new flankers based around two mainstays in their vast perfume portfolio: L'Homme Ideal Cologne and Shalimar Cologne.
Traditionally, with cologne referring to the lightest of perfume applications, rather peculiarly, both are in fact eaux de toilettes... they represent Thierry Wasser's interpretation of classic colognes but are presented in a more generous concentration.

In 100 words or less (no mean feat for a rather indulgent and wordy Sorcerer), here is my personal take on them.

L'Homme Ideal Cologne

A fresh, zesty twist on 2014's triumph L'Homme Ideal, the new Cologne version abandons the glorious praline and sweet-tobacco facets of its older sibling and instead infuses the composition with a good dose of grapefruit... its bittersweet citrus tang steers it away from the comforting ombré of sensual autumnal warmth and instead, sets a course for crisp and sheer summer briskness.
From the bottle, the bright pamplemousse flight and green vetiver notes produce a fleeting cypressy vibe, which lends a sense of Mediterranean sun. The signature heart of almond and neroli shares a welcome, familiar footprint with its wonderful older brother.

Shalimar Cologne

Lovers of the highly-venerated (long discontinued) Shalimar flanker "Eau Légere" rejoice! This newest take on the world's first Oriental perfume, Shalimar is an exceptional rendering which runs somewhat parallel to Mathilde Laurent's limited edition creation of 2003. Thierry Wasser has infused Shalimar Cologne with an effervescent burst of lemon/bergamot and grapefruit and a scattering of rose, jasmine and freesia. A sensual trail of clean musk, iris and vanilla make for a tender caress on skin which - despite it's fresh and modern charms - remains distinctly Shalimar.
An updated and gratifying release which doesn't claim to steal its famous Grandmother's thunder.

L'Homme Ideal Cologne and Shalimar Cologne are both currently available on the Guerlain website and in select travel retail outlets, and will be rolling out to other Guerlain doors imminently.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Le Galion - Maison de Parfumerie (9 mini reviews)

All too often we - as perfumisti - bemoan perfume reformulations, citing any measure of tweaking to a highly-regarded scent as a ghastly abomination. And yes, occasionally it is with good reason... indeed, newly imposed restrictions on certain natural raw materials have impacted upon some of the classic perfume pillars of the past. In this day and age, however, we are seeing something of an upswing in the way synthetic materials are being produced... ones that today, are rarely distinguishable from the organic source from which it's smelly molecules were appended. If I'm frank though, I've about had enough of whining 'aficionados' instantly writing off beautifully-executed reformulations and reissues of time-honoured perfumes without getting to know them better first. It must be incredibly challenging for an established House that has endured the ebb and flow of wartime, fickle trend and financial collapse to gather some traction in a fussy modern market when re-introducing perfumes from their illustrious past. Sometimes - just sometimes - I think that the merits of a house should be solely measured by what sits on the shelves today... not those that graced our dresser tops during the Great Depression. We no longer live in the 1940s; no longer have the same tastes; no longer have the same cultural cognisance, and are now - by comparison - a chiefly non-smoking society... why then, should we aspire to reach for perfume relics of the past?
Le Galion is one Maison de Parfumerie that I feel strongly ought to be approached with an open mind, a welcome nose, and perhaps most importantly, a keenly modern perspective.

Founded in Paris in 1930, 'Le Galion' was named after a sea-faring Galleon vessel and evoked thoughts of adventure and escape to far-flung isles. With master perfumer Paul Vacher at its helm, Le Galion set sail for success in the 1930s to the 1950s with the launch of a string of iconic perfumes such as Sortilege, Snob and Whip. These scents - much like many of its French contemporaries - succeeded in penetrating the global psyche and were known the world over. Vacher - an esteemed perfumer, has left his fingerprint on not only the Le Galion collection, but also authored Dior's legendary 'Miss Dior' and her younger sibling 'Diorling'. In fact, Vacher's consummate reach into the global consciousness saw Le Galion sold in 97 countries by the mid 1960's. So why - we must ask - is the name Le Galion seldom known or heard of today? The answer is simple... after Vacher's unexpected passing in the 1970s, the sale of the company to an American conglomerate saw the new management run Le Galion aground. By 1980, the House had all but vanished, leaving barely a trace of its venerated past in its wake.
Fortunately, in 2015 Le Galion was resurrected once more and is now in the reflective and sensitive hands of French ownership for the first time in over 30 years. Director and major share holder Nicolas Chabot is working hard to restore the brand to its former acclaim.

To date, Le Galion have relaunched 9 captivating scents from their impressive back catalogue; the jewel in the crown arguably being the highly-revered Sortilege... a scent that stormed the world both pre and post WWII. But it begs the question... does Sortilege - a scent created some 80 years ago - still remain relevant in the here-and-now? Are its wiles and charms that once bewitched flappers and sheiks, silver-screen sirens, soldiers and sweethearts suddenly lost on the selfie-snapping sheila of 2015?
Well, it would be one thing to compare and contrast old and new - to pick apart accords and write reams about reformulation... but I feel it would be of little consequence. Le Galion today - whilst observing a keen sense of tradition - is something to be discovered carte blanche. Nine exquisitely-crafted reissues just beg to be explored... and as yours truly can attest, one could not wish to be taken on a more thrilling journey!
Here's where I haul anchor and set a course to briefly touch upon each of these 9 'modern' classics.

Sortilege - 2014 (orig. 1936)
The highly venerated perfume upon which the House's reputation was built is every bit as enchanting today as I expect it was yesterday. A floral-aldehydic flight hints at the golden splendour of yesteryear, whilst narcotising notes of jasmine, mimosa, narcissus and rose reside at the tremoring heart of this composition. Sortilege feels commanding and assertive, without a hint garishness and pretension. A woody, ambery, musky trail leaves a captivating wake, which is resolutely feminine and devoutly self-assured.

Tubereuse - 2014 (orig. 1937)
Whilst its name might suggest a touchstone tuberose soliflore, Tubereuse is far from it. A prepossessing perfume with a delightfully saccharine opening, it feels like air-spun candy with a whisper of pear and pink berries. Its nucleus, however, is steeped in the carnal warmth of tuberose, rose and orange-flower which steers it away from a simple sugary lolly-water to a delectable and somewhat wanton scent, awash with sensuousness. An ambery, musky foundation renders Tubereuse a enchanting feminine that and fascinates and surprises.

Iris - 2014 (orig. 1937)
Another perfume poem rhapsodising over a single flower, Iris is a spectacular study in elegance and refinement. Not too dissimilar to Hermes' Hiris in it's approach, Iris not only takes a snapshot of the deep purple blooms, but also gives a sense of the whole plant. A sparkling citrus flight with a huff of velvety ambrette draws one's nose to the beautiful dry iris note at its heart. A sense of deep, earthy green is furnished by galbanum and cedarwood - the sum of these components paints an impressionistic  canvas with mottled purples and silvery-greens. Infinitely sophisticated and adamantly appealing.

Special for Gentlemen - 2014 (orig. 1947)
After the atrocities and paucity of the second World War, the world saw a gradual return to luxury and lavishness. In response to a shifting post-war cognisance, Le Galion released Special for Gentlemen, which even today suggests sumptuousness and a sense of impeccable grooming. An incredible blend of citrus, lavender, spices, resins, animalic notes and oakmoss, Special for Gentlemen calls to mind the fresh yet lingering Jicky or Mouchoir de Monsieur - both mainstays in the Guerlain perfume stable. Noble refinement and savoir faire personified.

La Rose - 2014 (orig. 1950)
An ode to femininity, La Rose is a captivating floral which combines the cashmere softness of violet, peach and rose to evoke the velvety texture of warm, unsullied skin. A sensual penetrating vein of ylang ylang, lily and patchouli lend a flush of desire to the composition, whilst a vanillic/musky base creates a bewitching sillage. Pretty, youthful and unspoiled... a blushing virgin whose hair dances on the air and laughter rings in the ears.

Snob - 2014 (orig. 1952)

Once touted as the "most exclusive perfume in the world", the delightfully named Snob brings a new nuance to the Le Galion portfolio with a rousing blend of fruits, flowers and spices. To a modern nose, it feels somewhat middle eastern in style, in that it holds notes which have been used in perfumery across the Arabian peninsula for millennia, specifically jasmine, rose, saffron and sandalwood. Snob - just as the name might suggest - is bold and commanding... an "all eyes on me" scent perfect for large social gatherings. Whilst brimming with components reminiscent of the souks and medinas of the East, Snob surprisingly manages to stay infinitely French in its execution.

Whip - 2014 (orig. 1953)
Very much a return to the tradition of classic cologne, Whip has a timeless appeal with its blend of sharp citrus and stirring aromats. Crisp bergamot, fragrant tarragon and soft lavender pay tribute to time-honoured perfume pillars of the past, but its the foundation upon which all these notes have been assembled that perhaps gives Whip its backbone: vetiver, patchouli, oakmoss and bitter leather. Originally intended for men, Whip resides in the same universe as Dior's Eau Sauvage or Chanel's Pour Monsieur. Old school, but in all the right ways.

Eau Noble - 2014 (orig. 1972)
As Le Galion stepped over the threshold of the 70s, a social revolution was taking place in which gender lines and gender roles were swiftly being blurred... Eau Noble was created from this movement as a universal scent for both men and women to enjoy. A beautiful soft leather fragrance, Eau Noble is brimming with fresh citrus, woody-green galbanum, green sage, fragrant lavender, geranium and oakmoss... the sum of its parts feel every bit as dignified and striking as its name implies. An ageless composition that still feels very relevant and equally as engaging today.

222 - 2014 (orig. date undetermined)
A forgotten and unmarked perfume bottle recently found in the 1930's Le Galion archives has now seen the light of day for the very first time. A captivating amber oriental, 222 possesses a certain warmth that makes for a stunning signature scent. A blend of precious woods, myrrh and styrax, leather, vanilla and oakmoss, this scent has a genderless appeal that is both sensuous and comforting.  An exquisite creation which flits somewhere between Diptyque's vintage Tam Dao and Xerjoff's Modoc, 222 is arguably the warmest and most tactile of all the Le Galion perfumes to date, and has swiftly become one of the author's favourites. 

With endless beauty abound, Le Galion has well and truly set a course for renewed success in the two-thousand-and-teens. Armed with a flotilla of fine fragrances of exceptional quality and beauty, I am excited to see the next chapter in the course of this revered House's history. 

For more information, visit and for customers wishing to experience these scents here in Australia, they are now available through Peony Haute Parfumerie in Melbourne.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Les Perles d'Isabey - Extraits d'Exception

Parfums Panouge have wowed and amazed with their highly anticipated launch of Les Perles d'Isabey - new pure parfum editions of three existing scents in their stable: Perle de la route d'Emeraude, Perle de Gardenia and Perle de Lys Noir. Yours truly has waxed lyrical in previous posts about the second coming of the esteemed house of Isabey, and these exquisite "Perles" signify a return to the House's traditions of meticulously crafted perfumes and perfume presentations.

In keeping with early Isabey examples from the Art Deco age, each flacon is realised as a pearly balloon of glass, inspired by a glassmaking method first introduced to the house in 1925 by master glassworker André Jollivet, who perfected the process adopting techniques imported from the Orient. Each flacon is individually packaged in a luxurious double-hinged silk-lined box with leather-like finish. It is accepted that in this day and age, so few perfume houses lavish the capital and resources to produce such exacting presentations, but this is something it appears that Isabey will never compromise. The meticulous packaging merely hints at the perfume residing inside as being one of exceptional quality and beauty. And to this author's nose, they are just that.

Perle de Gardenia
My relationship with Isabey's Gardenia eau de parfum is a long one, so when Mrs Sorcery of Scent and I heard of a parfum extrait edition, we were instantly excited. At the first opportunity to sniff and wear, we were astonished at how lovely it was, even if there is something of a divergence from the EDP. The parfum version feels slightly more resonant - perhaps less sharp or crisp - in the first moments when applied to skin. There is a very different texture too... more evocative of napped suede, which borders on white chocolate. Panouge / Isabey Parfumeur Jean Jacques has shunned the expected and deliberately taken "Gardenia" on a trajectory that does not follow, but rather runs parallel with the eau de parfum edition. Instead of simply turning up the volume in his parfum version, he has added an enchanting accord of white leather. This note adds a resolute sensuality; a softness that shifts away from heady gardenia blooms, into something more... intimate. It somehow feels more round... indeed, much like a pearl. Worn on its own, or even layered with the EDP, La Perle de Gardenia offers another captivating shade of the scent that the pair of us know and love.

Perle de la route d'Emeraude
In his approach to creating La Perle de la Route d'Emeraude, Jean Jacques again, has taken some artistic liberties that steer it away from the EDP. The precious golden orb holds an elixir which perhaps reaches even further into the Orient; more so than the eau de parfum which primarily focused on sun-soaked orange-blossom, jasmine and tuberose. Here, the Perle edition unfurls (to my nose) with a vaguely more resinous/incense slant... in its flight there is a brief undercurrent of smokey plumes (largely absent from the EDP) which later dissipate. There is a warmer, creamier nucleus of orris and ylang-ylang which emits a hazy ambery glow... in this regard, La perle de la Route d'Emeraude could perhaps not be any more appropriately packaged... its olfactory texture is of diffused golden light. Lightly spiced with cinnamon and imbued with silky vanilla it makes for a lip-smacking extrait that oozes sexiness and charm.

Perle de Lys Noir
The enchanting Lys Noir eau de parfum has become an undisputed favourite of mine... I relish its narcissus / lily / heliotrope blooms which when combined, emit an almost coconutty accord in its flight. La Perle de Lys Noir, on the other hand sees a shift in focus where - moments out of the bottle - there is a huff of pepperiness... one which diminishes after several moments. Over the span of its life, the EDP remains slightly more diaphanous, floral and musky, whereas the pure parfum feels somewhat more dense. A delicious yellow-brown ribbon of Ylang-ylang takes up residence between the other existing florals, and darker woodier notes tend to advance from below. Sandalwood and resinous frankincense underpin the composition, and it is awash with a balsamic, slightly animalic quality in the trail (perhaps ambergris). Perle de Lys Noir is sumptuous and mysterious... and indeed, I would expect no less from this revered House.

If one looks to quantify the opulence and lavishness of a perfume house, then one needn't look any further than Isabey. Les Perles d'Isabey are proof-positive that exacting standards, exceptional ingredients and masterful blending can truly create magic. The art of perfume is not dead... it is alive and well in the here and now.

Parfums Isabey are available in select retail outlets (online and offline) internationally, and I sincerely hope for us Australian perfumisti, that they will soon be readily accessible to us here.

For more information on Parfums Panouge and Isabey, visit:

Friday, 20 February 2015

Gorilla Perfumes and More: Lots Going On at LUSH

With their roots planted firmly in the 1970's, UK cosmetic outfitters LUSH are today a globally recognised brand. Perhaps first known for their eye-catching soaps sold by the pound, LUSH have since expanded their inventory to include (amongst other things) exciting handmade cosmetics, innovative hair-care products, jiggly shower jellies and precious perfume oils.
Seriously people! In 2015, no fully-fledged perfumisto should be recoiling from LUSH shopfronts, deterred by the pungent odours that spill from the door! In fact, any serious fragophile worth their salt might actually like to spend a little time in there.

Gorilla Perfume is an arm of the company that produces blended perfume oils sourced from all corners of the earth. In 2010, Sorcery of Scent blogged about Icon - a scent which truly won me over, but alas, was discontinued shortly thereafter. As it turns out, Icon was only one of a number of Gorilla Perfumes that enjoyed its 15 minutes of glory before being retired forever. In that regard, Gorilla Perfumes feels a bit renegade - a bit non-conformist... releasing perfumes in finite little 'volumes'... a "get-it-while-its-hot" approach to perfumery. This in itself can prove both frustrating and exhilarating: favourites can be suddenly pulled, but new editions come that beg to be explored.

In recent 'Volumes', yours truly has been swept away by two scents in particular; namely Sikkim Girls and Hellstone. The former is wanton blend of tuberose, frangipani, tea and jasmine... it feels devoutly heady and carnal, and is (at the time of posting) still a mainstay in the line. The latter, Hellstone, is a punchy, brawny blend of earthy vetiver, resinous opoponax and animalic cumin... it resides in a register of gruff masculine virility, and challenges the nose much in the same way other cumin-laiden favourites like Rochas Femme might. Alas, the latter has recently been retired, but not before yours truly panic-bought a bunch of bottles! The magic that ensues when this pair is layered must be experienced to be believed... we're talking Va-va-voom! With many perfumes to explore (and seemingly endless layering combinations), even a novice perfumista would find much to love in the current Gorilla Perfume inventory.

But the fun doesn't end with the perfume oils. LUSH, I've discovered, are being incredibly crafty with their product lines, creating perfumed products that truly innovate: chewable toothpaste tabs in a cornucopia of flavours, bronzing bars that you rub on skin, and shampoo solids for your hair. Perhaps one of my most favourite products to date is the fascinating "Copperhead" solid shampoo... a macaroon-sized disc that - if it weren't for its tremendously appealing perfume of earthy, smokey vetiver - might look a bit like a puck-sized cowpat. Its magic however, lies in it's composition... a blend of melted henna, arabica coffee grounds,vanilla absolute and roasted cocoa extract. These ingredients work together to produce a surprisingly generous lather, and add conditioning and lustre to the hair. With each disc lasting approximately 80 washes, I've resigned myself to buying a handful of these as gifts to give to friends.

Throwback time: I distinctly recall the first time I ever walked into a LUSH store... it was in Piraeus, Greece circa 1998 and Mrs Sorcery of Scent and I were lured through the doors the smell of soap cartwheeling on the air. Back then the store inventory comprised chiefly of their soaps - enormous rounds of the stuff that looked like iced cakes and amethyst stones and frozen water from the Aegean. Today, LUSH still produce exceptional handmade soaps, and my my most recent sample was their zesty "Sexy Peel" soap... a sun-coloured slice that smells of limoncello and citrus sorbet... arguably THE most appropriate thing to use in the heart of the West Australian summer. After rinsing with it, I found the top layer of peel acted as a gentle exfoliant, and my skin stayed perfumed with the pleasing odours of a delectable lemon curd or scrummy marmalade jam.

Suffice to say, LUSH are making quite a flutter. I can't help but tip my hat at a company that are pushing the limits of convention, and are offering a range of products that span from vegan to those that are ethically sourced. In this day and age, its refreshing to see a global entity return to time-honoured values whilst still staying relevant today.

LUSH have stores in most major cities and a comprehensive online presence. Visitors in Australia can visit or drop into a local Lush boutique. (If you're in Perth, the team in Plaza Arcade in the central CBD are knowledgable, genuine and attentive). For international visitors, visit:

Monday, 16 February 2015

QUICKIE REVIEWS: Guerlain: Teazzura, LPRN Ma Robe Petales, Le Plus Beau Jour de ma Vie

Whilst many are still nursing a Christmas hangover, Guerlain are already straight out of the gates with three brand new releases for Jan/Feb 2015! One by one, Maison Guerlain have sounded off with a new creation in three of their existing product avenues: the Aqua Allegorias, the principal parfums, and the parfums d'exception collections.

Teazzura (Aqua Allegoria)

Much as the name might suggest, Teazzura is an invigorating 'eau' that feels brisk, inviting and infinitely blue... perhaps an olfactory moment of pause beside a cerulean pool which is overlooking the sweeping Santorini caldera. Bristling lemon/bergamot bring a sense of Guerlain's 'signature' flight before a ripple of dry aromatic chamomile lends a husky, hay-like warmth to the mix. Fresh green-tipped leaves of tea counterbalance the citrus with a sedatory, calming effect and lend a sense of weightlessness and transparency. All this is awash over a considered base of white musk and calone, which together, suggest unspoiled waters lapping against the white-sand shores of a far-flung isle.
Teazzura is a lovely citrus / aromatic scent with an arresting aquatic slant... a sense of shimmering summer-blue found whilst holidaying at the equator.

La Petite Robe Noire - Ma Robe Pétales

Arguably Guerlain's most successful cash-cow in recent years, the LPRN collection never fails to enchant with its collectable editions rendered with a mere stroke of a brush. Ma Robe Pétales is the latest addition to the line which surprisingly side-steps the somewhat expected lip-smacking cherry-soaked red-berry signature of its elders and instead, takes a fanciful pirhouette across newly-introduced facets of mandarin, freesia and pistachio. This makes for quite a leap away from the LPRN that we are accustomed to, and towards something more spritely and fresh. There are occasional huffs of spring/summertime florals like rose, neroli and jasmine; but also a feeling of lantana (a very fragrant but poisonous flower that grows abundantly along footpaths - although this note is not actually listed). These lend a vivaciousness and lightness that is a welcome change from the existing LPRN olfactory benchmark. However, before you start to think it is sounding too far removed from the original, there is a familiar and endearing tonka / patchouli trail that is common to them both.
La Petite Robe Noire Ma Robe Petales will undoubtedly sell hand over fist... if not for its collectibility (and its potential brevity as a Guerlain flanker), but also for its perfume. A very solid and enchanting release.

La Plus Beau Jour de Ma Vie - (eau de parfum)

"Le Bouquet de la Mariée" is a brand new parfum extrait launched this month, presented in a 125ml quadrilobe flacon which represents the house's first commercial bridal perfume in over a century. The 60ml eau de parfum version - christened "The Most Beautiful Day of my Life" (above) - is prettiness personified with its monogrammed flacon and puffer... everything a bride could wish for! A delicate composition comprising opening notes of citrus, angelica and pink pepper, there is instantly a feeling of 'nude'... cashmere soft skin tones with perhaps a flush of timidness on the cheeks. A candied almond note not only lends a sense of celebratory tradition, but also a toothsome deliciousness, whilst pretty pink and white florals peer from beneath a veil of mouthwatering vanilla. The composition is underpinned by notes of white musks and patchouli: the perfect foundation upon which all others rest. 
This perfume's appeal extends well beyond potential brides-to-be, so it's billing as a wedding perfume can be no more than a marketing angle. With a similar structure and DNA, La Plus Beau Jour de Ma Vie could quite as easily take up place amongst her siblings in the L'Art et la Matière collection. One to be cherished, just as one should their partner.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Secret of Chanel No. 5

Perhaps no other perfume has penetrated the global psyche in the same way as Gabrielle Chanel's Chanel No. 5. Since its launch 94 years ago, this iconic scent has sold more than any other known, and it's minimalist packaging and clean-cut square-shouldered flacon are instantly recognisable in every part of the world. In her fascinating book "The Secret of Chanel No. 5 - The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous perfume", author and cultural historian Tilar Mazzeo casts a shining light on the No. 5 story from birth until today. Not only an absorbing read for perfume nerds like yours truly, this book will appeal to Francophiles and history buffs for it's exceptional research and intelligent writing. But I'm not here to review the book... rather, to pull from it's pages something of great interest to me.

I was shocked to learn that Gabrielle Chanel signed over 90% of the rights to her legendary perfume in 1924, just a few years after it was cast onto the world stage. With the remaining stakes split between Theophile Bader, then-owner of the prestigious Galleries Lafayette (20%) and Paul and Pierre Wertheimer, brothers and proprietors of the perfume giant Bourjois in the US (70%) Gabrielle later spent the rest of her days living with a pang of regret. In this engrossing account of what transpired thereafter, the solicitous management and marketing of Chanel No. 5 largely impacted our cultural cognisance of it today, almost 100 years later.

Here is where I wish to indulge myself and place a bookmark in the sweeping No. 5 timeline, if I may. One thing I found interesting about the marketing of Chanel No. 5 is how for almost 2 decades, it was regarded by many as completely inaccessible... a luxury item which, right up until the second world war, could only be afforded by the well-heeled. However, in the throes of WWII when resources were scant and little money remained to spend on lavish goods, the Wertheimer brothers made a risky decision to expand the perfume's distribution, offering smaller presentations at a lower price point so that it might appeal to a middle-class customer. A decision was made to extend availability to the hundreds of U.S Army Post Exchanges in the US and abroad; giving service men and women the opportunity to purchase Chanel No. 5 tax-free. At the time Gabrielle Chanel though it a preposterous idea and an erosion of it's exclusivity, but the sales it generated - and the new wave of No. 5 admirers it garnered - shot into the stratosphere.

Below, some striking images of WWII U.S Army Exchanges where No. 5 might have been distributed.

 Photo: Flickr
Photo: Vintage Postcards USA (ebay)
  Photo: Flickr

 Photo: Flickr

It is rare to discover an example of a wartime U.S Army issue of Chanel No. 5.
Here is such an example from the author's personal collection.

The back of the paper label reads:

I can't help but be charmed by such sweet keepsakes from a time of war. Perhaps it was purchased by a G.I, intended as a gift for his sweetheart?

Perhaps another image fitting of inclusion here, is one lifted from the official Chanel website. It depicts a line of U.S soldiers queuing up outside the flagship Chanel boutique on the rue Cambon in the French capital in 1945, only days after the liberation of Paris; a gathering of war-worn young men with only one purchase in mind before returning to their loved ones on the other side of the Atlantic. Chanel No. 5.

Such is the romance and classicism of Gabrielle Chanel's celebrated perfume. For as long as we draw breath, the world may never again see such an iconic name nor iconic scent weave its way into the tapestry of mankind. Chanel No. 5 charms us today, just as she did the heroes of yesterday.

For a look at Chanel's illustrious history, visit the illustrated timeline presented on "Inside Chanel".

Monday, 29 December 2014

NAOMI GOODSIR - Or du Sérail

I'm sure you'll forgive me for a moment for championing some home-grown talent, but watching Aussie milliner extraordinaire Naomi Goodsir's star rise in recent years has been an absolute joy to behold... particularly where her stunning fragrances are concerned. Goodsir has built her international reputation on the back of her quirky, newfangled and luxurious headwear which has had the spotlight trained to it since the early 2000's. More recently however, it has also been in part, for her parfums d'exception.

In October 2012, Sorcery of Scent reviewed the exquisite Bois d'Ascese and Cuir Velours - a pair of striking scents that marked Naomi's first foray into fine fragrance. In 2014, Parfums Naomi Goodsir have launched Or du Sérail - the latest in the trio which speaks of Asiatic opulence and richness.

Or du Sérail is a Bertrand Duchaufour creation with an enchanting Oriental slant... it captures the sensation of warm skin, hazy air and golden light. A citrusy, fruity opening tickles the nose with the scent of plump berries and tropical fruits... a cornucopia of dewy, nectar-like accords that stimulates one's saliva glands. Moments in, a huff of chocolatey / coconutty lavishness appears over a steadily-thickening seam of warm, ambery accords that swell from beneath. A sweet, heady wisp of ylang ylang imbues the heart with a staunchly sensual feel, whilst a swirling ribbon of golden brown tobacco and fragrant woods bring with it a bittersweet richness reminiscent of the air trapped in a hookah den. As Or du Sérail unfurls, one cannot help but be enchanted and consumed by its narcotising lavishness. It's trail lingers on skin for many hours - a caramel-like whisper left behind to beckon and cajole.

Hats off (no pun intended) to Naomi and creative director Renaud CoutaudierOr du Sérail takes its place amongst its older siblings as not only a very worth successor, but also one of the most interesting niche releases of this year.

Or du Sérail is available in Australia at Peony Haute Parfumerie in Melbourne, or internationally at e-tailers such as Ausliebezumduft.

Monday, 15 December 2014

PARFUMS ISABEY - Resurrection of an iconic House

On any given occasion, ask my wife what fragrance she is wearing, and 8 times out of 10, she will tell you "Isabey"... which (if we're to be honest) isn't 100% true. Her signature scent is in fact Isabey's "Gardenia", and has been since the early 00's. Why so vague then? you might ask. Well, her nebulous response is not for fear of divulging a closely guarded secret, but rather because both she and I hope that our non-definite response might compel the inquirer to take some time to investigate the *entire* Isabey line. Parfums Isabey was founded almost a century ago, but it is only in recent years that they have had the spotlight trained to them again. And deservedly so.

In 2009, I wrote this article on the renaissance of one of France's most luxurious perfume houses, Isabey, and the release of their then-new fragrance Fleur Nocturne. Isabey - a brand new company in the early 1920s - decided to exhibit their perfumes at the world famous Exposition des Arts Decoratifs in Paris in 1925 and - up against giants such as Houbigant and Coty - managed a coup... they were awarded a Gold Medal for their perfumes, packaged in enchanting flacons and exquisitely crafted perfume presentations. In the years following, Isabey continued to manufacture exceptional perfume bottles designed by some of Europe's biggest glassmakers: Rene Lalique, Julien Viard, Andre Jollivet and Ludwig Moser, and many still stand today as a yardstick against which many other luxurious perfume presentations are measured. (A single boxed Isabey flacon sold at auction in 2012 with the hammer price achieving a staggering €61,000; setting a world record in sales of antique perfume bottles).
Unfortunately, when war tore through Europe in 1944, Parfums Isabey vanished as so many others did. But this was not the end. In 2001, the Parisian House of Panouge resurrected this iconic brand, and bought it back from the foxed pages of history.

Parfums Panouge (PArfums NOUvelle GEneration) looked to the heritage and traditions of the House when approaching it's reinstitution. With careful consideration given not only to the reconstruction of the parfums, but also the flacons and packaging, Panouge have exhibited a keen understanding and sensitivity to Isabey's past. Perfumer Jean Jacques and artistic director Rania Naim observe these traditions and have created eye-catching and tactile presentations that tip their hat to the creations of yesteryear. To date there have been five Isabey perfumes reprised. They are:

Gardenia (2001 / commercially 2006)
Fleur Nocturne (2009) - originally launched as "Bleu de Chine" in the early 20th century.
L'Ambre de Carthage (2011)
La Route d'Emeraude (2012)
Lys Noir (2014)

In producing these scents, Jean Jacques echoes the sentiments of Robert Bienaimé - his predecessor and Isabey perfumer of almost a century ago. Here are some brief words about those that have not yet been featured on Sorcery of Scent.


The perfume that was first revisited and reintroduced in an exquisite "pearl" limited edition flacon in 2001, later became a more accessible EDP.

A magnificent overture to femininity, Gardenia acts as a sumptuously velvety mantle composed of blossoming florals... ylang ylang, jasmine rose and iris feature over a glowing heart of gardenia. This scent feels warm and cashmere-like, but also has qualities that are luminous and radiant. Foundation notes of sandalwood and musks allow it to rest on skin for many hours.  Gardenia is an exemplary composition that will enchant and beguile... it is sensual, seductive and infinitely sophisticated.


The first masculine launch which has enchanted both men and women alike. 

A scent that surprises with it's unconventional approach, L'Ambre de Carthage feels resolutely more aromatic than most 'ambers' with the inspired introduction of bergamot, osmanthus and jasmine tea. This unfolds over a considered blend of oliban, labdanum, sandalwood, patchouli and musk. Mercifully, L'Ambre de Carthage is totally devoid of the tooth-achingly sweet accord of vanilla which one tends to expect in an amber scent. By veering away from an expected 'cookie-cutter' treatment, the outcome is a classy, sensuous and profound take on a time-honoured theme. 


Inspired by the "Emerald Triangle" of Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, the flacon and packaging has been designed with an oriental slant. 

With a brisk opening of citrus and sunny white florals, La Route d'Emeraude instantly evokes the sensation of solar warmth and the chirrup of cicadas ringing in the ears. Orange blossom, jasmine and tuberose blanket the perfume laterally, whilst a delicate pink blush of rose blossoms within. As the scent unfolds, lightly spiced, ambery, musky accords unfold on the skin, bringing with them a carnal, almost organic component. Elegant, opulent and alluring.


The most recent feminine release, presented in a beautiful silver satin-lined box harkens back to timeless perfume pillars of the past.

A scent originally launched in 1924, Lys Noir embodies the art deco age in appearance. Ageless and captivating this is a perfume with a hushed, intimate feel, like a sensual whisper in the ear from behind cupped hands. The oft-heady blooms of narcissus, lily and tuberose have been treated with a measured hand, and their heaviness diminished to just a tantalizing breath. The clever use of heliotrope, woods and musks brings complexity and balance. An extraordinary composition leaves Lys Noir dancing between being a voluptuous floral and a lip-smacking oriental. Mysterious and captivating, it is certain to turn heads.

In January 2015, Isabey will add three new novelties to the line; Les Perles d'Isabey. These are parfum extrait editions of Gardenia, Lys Noir and La Route d'Emeraude, presented in a pearl-shaped stoppered flacon and jewel box; exceptional pieces that echo those from Isabey's resplendent past.

For more information on Parfums Isabey, visit the Panouge website:

Finally, for a walk through Isabey's history, and to marvel at the stunning perfume presentations of almost a century ago, I recommend you search for the book "Isabey Paris, Parfumeur depuis 1924" by Editions Gourcuff Gradenigo (French and English language).

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Late 19th / Early 20th Century photos of Vintage Perfumeries

Over a century ago
you commenced trading,
I deduce from these photos;
with sepia fading.
My gaze, it finds yours
but yours doesn't mine,
alas, we're fractured in two
by a fissure in time.

Sensible hemlines,
waistcoats and ties;
your buttoned existence,
lends pride to your eyes.
I feel I know you -
the person you were,
a purveyor of perfume,
dear madam, dear sir.

You'll never know me
nor imagine my world
but I stand here as tribute
to how the future unfurled.
Your chosen vocation
giving the gift of fine scent
has endured to this day
dear lady, dear gent.

But since your beginnings,
a colossus emerged...
a greedy behemoth,
how sales have surged!
Gone is the era
of graces and airs
your tailor-made service...
now nothing compares.

So wherever you're lying
I hope its at rest
dear mister, dear miss,
you couldn't have guessed.
There is no reverse,
our cards have been played,
and like a whisper of perfume,
we too, will fade.