Wednesday 3 December 2008

Thierry Mugler - Cologne

I can't pinpoint exactly why I have been putting off writing about Thierry Mugler's unisex masterpiece Cologne. In some ways I feel I have been avoiding it because I felt my words simply won't do it justice. This is a scent that I celebrate with every fibre of my being! A scent that has never once been absent from my fragrance wardrobe since its launch back in 2001.

I was fortunate enough to be working as a Mugler Ambassador at the time of Cologne's release. I had been hired by Mugler's distribution company to man the Theirry Mugler counter in one of West Australia's flagship department stores. I was known as "that guy who works for Angel" by shoppers, who would pass me by, exchanging odd stares between themselves, and snide remarks spoken in whispers. But I was undeterred... I was already a dedicated disciple of the Mugler Universe, and took pleasure in working with a luxury brand that I adored and admired. Up until its release, I had worked for more than a year with the Mugler portfolio of perfumes that had surrounded me in twinkling glass stars and shining metal flacons that held elixirs violet-blue in hue. Angel and A*men were scents that were daring and dramatic, and either repelled or attracted people around me, like orbiting celestial bodies. 
When it was finally announced that Mugler was to launch a "universal" scent for both men and women, I was excited. I attended my Cologne training with enormous enthusiasm... and was stunned to find monolithic flacons of vivid green juice had replaced the thorny violet ones.

Thierry Mugler's approach to creating Cologne, was to draw upon the historic culture of cologne, and thrust it forward several hundred millennia into a far-flung spacescape. He wanted to create a synthesis of fragrant molecules that would unify men and women, and honour the idea of androgyny. This, he succeeded in evoking with the striking imagery that supported the launch: a depiction of a two-headed figure that share the one body, and whose limbs are intertwined in a grotesquely inorganic manner. Curiously though, it is an image that also succeeds in communicating an astonishing sense of harmony and balance.

This dramatic paradox can be said for the juice as well. Its fluorescent fluid is an interesting contradiction... communicating something noxious or wildly unnatural; whilst the very nature of "green" insinuates something restorative and replenishing... as though drawn from a spring or fountain of youth. The bottle, also implies opposing elements:  its broad, sloping shoulders suggests something futuristic and regimental, whilst at the same time, echoes pre-historic symbolism (compare the monolithic statues on Easter Island, for example).
The perfume itself is also an oxymoron... it is brimming with clean, striking, soapy freshness - drawing upon the pristine vitality of mother earth - though much of its composition is synthetic in nature. At the surface of this scent, re-energising citruses dominate, but beneath, the heart is very organic in nature. Cologne is said to emulate the smell of freshly scrubbed skin, and the molecule used to suggest living matter is the now-famous "S-note", trademarked to the house of Mugler. During my training session, Cologne's individual fragrance accords were passed around in tiny vials for the sales associates to smell. The "S note" however, was packaged as a molecule-soaked cushion kept in a screw-top container. We were warned prior to opening it, that most of us would find it challenging to the nose. With trepidation each of us sniffed the container and inhaled what all could effortlessly recognise as post-coital secretions. We were all instantly appalled and intrigued. This famed accord encompassed the most fundamental odour of life itself! It became clear to me, why the house of Mugler had endeavoured to build Cologne around it. It is genderless. It is familiar. It is basic. Regenerative.

Since the success of Mugler's Cologne, other perfume houses have borrowed from the concept - some choosing to append various accords (the topnotes of Jasper Conran Man), and others, unashamedly attempting to recreate it (Creed's Original Vetiver, and Gaultier's Monsieur eau de Martin). In my eyes however, Cologne will always be revered as the yardstick against which copycat creations will henceforth be measured. Mugler's meticulous eye for detail, and his breathtaking ability to tell a story with perfume are second-to-none. 

If Cologne is anything to go by, we should look forward to the next time the house of Mugler transports us off to extrasolar landscapes around the Mugler galaxy.

Sunday 23 November 2008

Ambergris / Ambre Gris

Whilst the idea of using authentic animal products in perfumery is enough to enrage animal rights activists the world over, there is comfort in knowing that the much sought-after Ambergris (grey amber) is one of a few substances that can be sourced without inflicting any harm to the creature itself.  Au contrare...  this waxy grey/white material is uncommonly ejected from the intestinal tracts of sperm whales, bringing much relief to the beast in the process.

The trouble is, that ambergris is difficult to come by. Occasionally, some very fortunate beachcombers stumble upon lumps of varying sizes in the dunes, and others have scooped the floating material from the open seas with nets - but whatever the method of collection, ambergris will be sure to net you a tidy profit. In recent years, a 15kg lump that was found on a beach in South Australia, has been valued at a whopping $300,000. Its rarity and desirability for use as a basenote and fixative in perfume sees suppliers shell out top-dollar to secure this rare commodity. Its deeply earthy, semi-sweet balsamic aroma intensifies fragrances, and increases longevity.
For decades perfumers have been inspired by this rare and precious component, and many have put their own twist on the ambergris theme. One which I am particularly fond of, is the 2008 Balmain release, aptly named Ambre Gris. Enchantingly presented in a weighty grey glass flacon and twinkling gold crown, Ambre Gris is an opulent elixir that displays characteristics of both a gourmand perfume, and one with a mild animalic edge.

It opens with a rousing floral accord that shifts quickly into a candied fruit note... but thankfully one which is not too saccharine in nature. A permeating honeyed warmth seeps through the topnotes, and is followed by a husky iris-like dryness. It is at this point where the scent lingers in an unusual narcotising state of limbo where the balsamic ambergris materialises as if from the murky depths, and is suspended like a shining lure at the end of a fisherman's hook. It is sensuous and smouldering. Wonderful curls of resinous benzoin lend a deep caramel warmth, and myrrh; a soft soapiness to the scent. The edible quality is thick and luxurious like ribbons of golden syrup, but the ambergris at the heart denotes something more organic. Its tranquilizing voice sings through the layers of this perfume like a Siren, beckoning, coercing, ensnaring.

Many hours later, Ambre Gris is still evolving. There are fleeting moments of synthetic rubber such as those found in Bvlgari Black,  leather much like that present in Acqua di Parma's Colonia Assoluta, and vanilla/musks akin to those in Gaultier2. It is a perfume that has been made for the mainstream market, yet it has all the olfactory indicators that could liken it to many niche releases today. It can be celebrated for its above-average sillage and titanic persistence (8+ hours on me, after 2 discreet spritzes), but more so for its charming take on this prized treasure from the sea.

Thanks go to Liz, for sending me with this bottle. A very kind gesture, and much treasured gift.

Saturday 15 November 2008

Washington Tremlett - Black Tie

For a little over a year now, I have been singing the praises of this exceptional men's release to all who will listen. Washington Tremlett, founded in Paris in 1870, became the most prominent shirt-making company in Europe and the New World. After opening a store in Saville Row in London, the company enjoyed the exclusive patronage of Kathryn Hepburn, The Onassis family and Sam Goodwyn, amongst many other names of the European elite. With numerous contacts in thespian circles, the company went on to produce costumes for many theatrical productions, including the stage show and film "My Fair Lady".
Remarkably though, the firm is best known for inventing the seven-fold tie in 1892, and for coining the phrase "black tie". To this day, Washington Tremlett's bespoke shirts are still created under the Kilroy brand, working out of Saville Row, and the impeccable styling and distinguished nature of this label have now been translated into perfume.

Black Tie is a fragrance for men, based around a floral, spicy heart which descends into a base of precious woods. Saffron and rose tread the boards beneath the radiant limelight and take the starring roles in this elegant composition. It is supported by a wonderful chorus-line of floral/herbaceous accords including tuberose, peppery geranium and sage. This exquisite mix maintains the tempo and then comes to a crescendo with its smouldering basenotes of walnut, galbanum, sandalwood and patchouli. 
Black Tie can be likened in style to Czech & Speake's No.88, though I feel the afore-mentioned seems distinctly more refined and less husky than the latter. Much like a faultlessly tailored shirt, Black Tie is cut to sit very close to the skin... it is the distinguished skin scent of a man with impeccable grooming and refined masculinity.

Washington Tremlett have six scents in the range to date: Black Tie, My Fair Lady, Royal Heroes, M.P.H, and the newly launched Iris Absolute, and Neroli Absolute.

Friday 7 November 2008

Olivier Durbano - Jade

In ancient Chinese Dynasties, Jade was revered as the imperial gem... favoured by the high-ranking members of the imperial family as an ornamental stone. Varieties of the stone can be found in hues from white, through pink to black, but the highly prized emerald green jade commonly appears in history, used in elaborate ceremonial pieces, and hand-fashioned by skilled artisans into objets d'art.
On a school trip to China in the late 80's, I returned home with several jade souvenirs... mostly trinkets really, but it is the very nature of the stone that seems to embody the country's vast history. In a bygone era, when nomads travelled the Silk Road, it was considered more valuable than gold. It is little wonder then, that jeweller/perfumer Olivier Durbano has chosen this esteemed cabochon for inclusion in his seven "stone poems".

This being said, when Jade is first applied, I do not immediately garner a sense of noble opulence as perhaps I had expected. Instead, I get a strong sense of the China that might have existed in the early 1900's - when her glory days were over, and she was a country controlled by many European nations. After several wars, and with control over most of her lucrative sea-ports lost to the Europeans, this invited foreign trade and residence. China was influenced by external powers, and the wishes of the Chinese themselves often ignored. This cohabitation meant a swing in Chinese culture was at hand, much to the resentment of the Chinese. So, how is this translated into perfume? I hear you ask... well, Jade is a clever marriage between European convention and Far Eastern tradition.

As one might well imagine, judging the vivid green colour of the juice; opening notes are initially rather medicinal... a sharp stab of lush wet mint, followed by the biting aroma of bitter green tea leaves. Whilst these accords share a starring role and have remarkable tenacity, one can also distinguish a scattering of star anise and a curl of aromatic cassia. The experience is rather like a visit to a traditional Chinese herbalist whose walls are lined with antique wooden apothecary drawers; the contents of which are collected and bundled together in rice-paper packages, and carefully tied with string. One can also identify some delicate florals and dusty iris germinating at the heart, though these are as fine as Chinese silk and transparent as hand-made paper lanterns. They merely cast light on the understated vetiver/patchouli base that lies at the floor of the perfume, and whose accords soar and fall sharply like rugged Chinese mountains.

People familiar with Durbano's previous offerings might wonder if he has captured the spirit of jade (the stone) with the same measure of excellence as he has with his other stone poems. His approach to this scent marks a shift in style: for starters, the resinous frankincense/incense accords which were at the heart of all 3 previous perfumes (ones that I felt lend the earthy/mineralic qualities to his work); are now absent. This being said, I don't feel this diminishes his interpretation of jade. After all, the Chinese use jade less in its raw mineral form, and more as a polished and finished piece. If one could experience the taste of a smooth green jade cabochon, it would taste just like this perfume smells. There are nuances of the Far East, and shades of traditional European perfumery that make Jade an enchanting scent with a wonderful vintage twist. 

Jade is currently available at, and will be soon shipping from other exclusive Durbano stockists.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Terre d'Hermes

As many have said before me, Terre d'Hermés is a fragrance triumph. Voted 'Best Fragrance of the Year' by FiFi in 2007 in the 'Men's Luxe' category, my love affair with this scent began whilst visiting Greece that same summer. Given the sweltering heat at the time, I was enamoured with the way it blossomed on my skin.
Its opening accords of fresh green/orange citruses are much akin to those found in Eau d'Orange Verte - another of my Hermés faves. However, it quickly shifts into an unusual chocolatey/jaffa note, before some rich earthy and elemental accords come to the fore. 

It is the scent of a long-forgotten orange orchard that is overgrown and untameable... one that can only be reached by cutting through thick, tangled undergrowth that has flourished over several centuries through abandon and neglect. There is almost a sense of an "electrical storm" hanging overhead... a threatening heaviness, accompanied by the sharp spike of ozone in the air that declares when clouds, swollen with precipitation, are set to burst. One can detect the aroma of dusty, turned earth as it is speckled with fat raindrops... soil that is littered with over-ripe, mouldering oranges that have fallen from the green canopy above. 
Terre d'Hermes is an elaborate synthesis of accords, but one that ultimately captures just a brief moment in time... a snapshot, which clearly records every detail and impression in vivid colour. It is basic, welcoming and familiar.

Jean Claude Ellena once again has approached its construction with great sensitivity, and the result speaks for itself.  Its projection is perhaps not the best, however it is worn close to the skin, and in doing so, allows the wearer this wonderful personal luxury.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Nature's Nexus Academy of Perfuming Arts

Last weekend I was thrilled to learn that I was successful in securing one of only 10 very limited places offered to study with the NNAPA
Nature's Nexus Academy of Perfuming Arts was founded to provide education to aspiring perfumers, and the course will be focusing purely on the use of natural materials. They offer a year long course of study in natural perfumery that will enable students to create their own perfumes and perfumed products. I am extremely enthusiastic and excited to participate in this program, and hope at some point down the track, to be able to present to you, some of my very own perfume innovations.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Costume National 21

Previously, I've blogged about the uber-chic Italian design house Costume National, and the exquisitely crafted Scent Intense.
In 2007, Costume National celebrated 21 years in the biz, and to celebrate the milestone, they created 21 - a new, bewitching eau de parfum created for both men and women. I have been waiting for many months to try this, and was thrilled when a sample recently appeared in my mailbox.
CN fragrances to me, are like a sheep in wolf's clothing. Their minimalistic shiny flacons and stark, monochromatic advertising campaigns suggest that the scents themselves should follow suit: clean, linear, unembellished. But if the truth be known, 21 is yet another perfume in the CN portfolio that challenges this very notion. It contains 21 components that run the gamut from cold milk and fragrant saffron, through royal jelly and creamy tonka bean, to spicy cumin and smokey oud. Though there appears to be a striking diversity in its individual components, a rare sense of balance and harmony has been masterfully achieved. 21 intoxicates the senses and captures the imagination.

This scent opens with a crisp scattering of orange blossoms that are cushioned by a comforting lactic milk accord skimming just beneath the surface. It transitions rapidly into something warm and really rather profound... saffron, pepper, cashmere wood, musks and amber all lend their radiant heat to the mix. Curling wisps of labdanum and olibanum and oud contribute a balsamic richness... the effect here akin to something of a smoky tobacco accord. I can also detect dark earthy pits of patchouli (similar to Tom Ford's interpretation in White Patchouli) and bushels of fragrant vetiver. But there is also an ever-present softness - vanilla, sandalwood and smooth tonka bean that allow this scent to last for hours and hours on the skin. This being said, 21 is not a "sweet" scent by any stretch of the imagination; Ennio Capasa's perfume innovation is a clever marriage between white purity and veiled complexity. A fragrance that again epitomises the Costume National ideal of modern sophistication melding with timeless elegance.

I will definitely be adding 21 to my Christmas list this year, and dropping all the right hints in all the right places. Roll on December...!

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Maxim's de Paris Pour Homme

In 1981, when designer Pierre Cardin purchased the famous Maxim's restaurant on the Rue Royale in Paris, he was already dreaming of opening several more across the planet - each one with cuisine every bit as lavish as the Art Nouveau ornamentation and furniture within. With branches now in New York, London and Beijing, the Maxim's empire has become a string of culinary institutions, a hotel and a museum.
In 1988, Cardin teamed up with bottle designer Pierre Dinard, and created the wonderful Maxim's Pour Homme - a lush floral fougere that embraced the Art Nouveau design ethic of highly stylised flowing organic lines and forms. The scent itself can, in hindsight, be characterised as being very 80's in style... full-bodied and excessive, much like other colognes of its time. But this fragrance, now regrettably discontinued, can still hold its own alongside other 80's greats such as Chanel's Antaeus and YSL's Kouros, when pitted against many modern mainstream releases.

A exuberant opening of wet lavender and lush fruits blossom on the skin over a mildly indolic heart of jasmine, sharp muguet and peppery carnation. There is also an unmistakable core of mossy cedarwood and sandalwood that act as the framework for this scent. The basenotes are characterised by dark patchouli and musk accords that dip and dive between the ornate leathery pillars that hold the roof of this composition aloft. On paper, the individual elements might appear to be an erratic assortment, but after 20 or 30 minutes on the skin, there is a wonderful synthesis of these accords that work phenomenally well together. If I were to find fault in it, perhaps its only short-coming is in its longevity, which is approximately 4 hours on my skin.

I am in raptures over Maxim's composition, but have to keep reminding myself that this scent is no longer in production. Fortunately, for the time being at least, I have secured a source where I can buy it extraordinarily cheap (ie: less than $3 for 120mls), so phenomenal deals on this fragrance can still be found. But I am left wondering what will happen when the reserves have all but disappeared, and this scent is lost to the halls of time...
... I can only hope that it too is resurrected on some distant day, and celebrated in the same way the Art Nouveau themes have been, in Cardin's opulent eateries.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Musk Ghazelle: bringing sexy back!

After my recent study of a number of Middle Eastern oils, I feel I have chanced upon a phenomenal find: the treacle-coloured elixir named Musk Ghazelle -reportedly produced by the manufacturer Ajmal (though I do not see this scent listed in their portfolio of perfumes).

From the very first moment Musk Ghazelle reached my nose, it flicked a switch within. It was as if a child leaning between the bars of a sleeping lion's den, prodding the slumbering beast repeatedly with a stick; finally roused the raging carnivore within me. Something had triggered a natural behavioural response in me that effected my human physiology... evoking a desire to hunt, to consume and to propagate.
Simply put, this potent blend wreaks havoc with my pheromones. It awakens a primordial instinct that has been buried deep in the recesses of  the human psyche for millennia... one of a pack-hunting, flesh-eating predatory race that copulate shamelessly on thick animal hides in dark caves lit with flaming torches.

Musk Ghazelle opens with a fine ribbon of sun-ripened fruits that give the impression of having laid around a little too long... perhaps already undergoing the early stages of fermentation into a sugary alcohol. Somewhere beneath, there lies a fleecy musk accord that is not sharp and acrid as with most musks; but organic and somehow fatty. This musk swells and grows as the oil warms on the skin... one can quite clearly imagine their face pressed into the warm, powdery hide of an animal, conscious of the oils in the hair and dried sweat on the beasts skin. It is a very sexy, vulnerable scent... and every bit as appealing to the hungry predator as the limping impala that has strayed away from the main herd.

This is a spirited potion that reaches far into the recesses of the human subconscious. Whilst many mainstream perfumers falsely claim to create scents that render you irresistible to those around you; Musk Ghazelle is the first perfume I've encountered that appears to do so on a biological and psychological level. A few drops of this potent oil shared between couples, is bound to make the earth move! 

Musk Ghazelle is sold by the quarter tola (3ml) for approximately $35, through strictly limited distribution.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Juliette Has a Gun: Citizen Queen

When creating the third women's scent under his exclusive "Juliette Has a Gun" brand, Romano Ricci had a vast history in perfumery to draw upon. With family ties rooted firmly to the French perfume/cosmetics powerhouse Nina Ricci, the architecture of Citizen Queen demonstrates that Romano is indeed of excellent stock. Juliette Has a Gun is a brand that celebrates dominant femininity, where Shakespeare's heroine Juliette has been used as a muse; only she has been reinterpreted and refashioned for the 21st century.

Teaming up with renowned nose Francis Kurkdjian, Ricci has created a modern day chypre for contemporary femme fatales. The composition is based around sumptuous rose and animalic leather, and its plentiful use of shimmering aldehydes liken it in many ways to vintage French creations such as Chanel No.5. But whilst Citizen Queen lifts her pistol to tip her hat to the perfume traditions of yesteryear, she stands firmly with her stockinged foot planted in the here and now. The scent opens with wonderful florals and luminous aldehydes that rush to fill the back of the nose. Iris, immortal flower and bulgarian rose engage in a three-way tango across the floor of this perfume, whilst warm amber and soft leather smoke silently in the shadows. There is a wonderful transitory period where this leather accord features... slightly bitter and animalic in nature, it delicately suggests the odours of tanneries from whence the leather has been sourced. Here one can detect something dirty and intriguing beneath the surface... perhaps if Chanel No.5 and Agent Provocateur were to produce an illegitimate lovechild, Citizen Queen would be it.
She displays all the characteristics of being a conservative little Daddy's girl by day, and a pistol-packing coquette by night.

This scent, marketed toward women, could also be worn by a man looking for something avante garde, straddling the line between the masculine and the feminine; the old and the new. In terms of persistence, it will offer 8-10 hours of wear... and, much like the modern day gun-toting heroine herself, Citizen Queen will demand your attention and your respect.

Friday 19 September 2008

Keiko Mecheri - Loukhoum

As a child, I had an incredible sweet-tooth and it would appear now as an adult, very little has changed. But there are only a handful of sugary treats that I am seldom able to stomach. One is liquorice, and the other; Turkish delight.
From its beginnings in Persia as ahbisa, and then Turkey as rahat loukhoum, this jelly-like confection scented with rosewater and dusted in sugar has survived the centuries. But I was never a big fan of its sticky texture and inordinate sweetness.

This is not to say, however, that I'm not visually and olfactorily excited by these powdered pink morsels that have been romanticised and popularised throughout the ages. Whenever I'm offered a piece of this candied jelly, I will usually politely decline, but stop to take a moment to inhale its wonderful aroma. To me, the scent of turkish delight is far more arresting than the taste.

So it was with some trepidation that I recently sampled Keiko Mecheri's Loukhoum... I was fearful that perhaps I would be exposed to the olfactory equivalent of the saccharine taste of loukhoum, as opposed to its exquisite perfume. But my concerns were unfounded. What I experienced when applying this to my skin was a beautifully radiant rose (which I had expected), but also the wonderful snowy powder of dry dusting sugar. A puff of silken florals emerged over a swirl of soft vanilla and fragrant candied almonds. After some time, I detected a comforting 'milkiness' which was both 'opaque' and 'white' in nature. Loukhoum has been well devised so that it imbues the air around you with an aromatic aura. It is not outlandishly cloying, but it does have incredible sillage and persistence.

I am pleased to have tried this eau de parfum, because it given me a new appreciation of the confectionary. And though I doubt any time soon I will be scoffing boxes of turkish delight like young Edmund in Narnia, I do like the idea that I can enjoy the best part of what this sweet has to offer - without the cavities, of course.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

S.T. Dupont Noir

In fragrance circles, there is little known or spoken of with regard to the history of S.T Dupont. Perhaps best known nowadays for their iconic lighters, the French luxury house S.T Dupont was founded in 1872 when Simon Tissot-Dupont opened a prestigious leather goods workshop in Paris. His luxurious leather accessories saw his company rapidly become successful amongst the Parisian high society, and later his sons André and Lucien Dupont went on to produce items for the cream of international society: Cartier, Aspreys of London, the Maharaja of Patiala and the British Royal Family. New innovations came during the highly creative Arts Deco period, and later, with the scarcity of raw materials available during the second world war, the Dupont brothers turned their attention to producing the first pocket petrol lighter. The move was a spectacular success, and to this day, their meticulously crafted metallic, enamelled lighters remain a symbol of status and good taste. In the 70s, the company shifted focus and added bejewelled writing instruments, watches and men's accessories to their portfolio.

It was only in 2003, the brand experienced somewhat of a revival where they sought to produce luxury items that stood at the crossroads between tradition and innovation. A new era saw them apply its values and graphic language to contemporary products such as laptop cases and USB keyrings - all of which carry the S.T Dupont emblematic pattern: the Diamond Head. 

In a marriage between tradition and glamour, in 2006 S.T Dupont launched S.T Dupont Noir - a masculine scent, packaged in a striking obsidian-black glass flacon carrying the faceted Diamond head motif. It is a wonderful object to hold in the hand... both monolithic and cold, its high-shine surface captures and reflects the light beautifully.

Im my humble view, the scents in the S.T Dupont portfolio are vastly underrated. Noir is a fragrance that I wish was awarded the attention it deserves. Its a heavyweight amongst the lightweights... meaning that, for a scent created for the designer market, it is remarkably robust. Created by perfumer Michael GirardNoir is a scent full of contrasts... it opens with a wonderfully cool jet of mint and soft butterfly lavender which lull the wearer into believing this fragrance is anything but "Black", but then it takes an exotic, spicy turn with cardamom, mace, fragrant clove, and precious woods. It is this warm, piquant heart that prickles with embers of allspice, and, when warmed on the skin, it radiates magnificently. Application in warm weather will allow these accords to truly blossom and captivate! Vetyver, fragrant woods and sensuous cashmeran all dominate on the drydown. 

Noir is an above-average scent, with above-average persistence. I feel it is very fitting as a smart office fragrance, or for evening excursions. 
It is as vivid and lively as the night itself: dark shadows, pounced with light, and brimming with promise.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Tom Ford White Patchouli

As far as I'm concerned, Tom Ford is an apostle of modernity. For a number of years now, he (and his creative entourage) have managed to accurately predict and lead new movements in fashion, design, and beauty. His monosyllabic first and last name has become a phenomenal global brand, associated with self-indulgent style and contemporary elegance. Though the man himself is rumoured to be a fastidious workhorse, he has the rare capacity to make it all seem so effortless. He is also a man who possesses the uncanny ability to envisage upcoming shifts in trends and tastes; and the savvy to act upon it.

When Black Orchid, (his first commercial scent to emerge from beneath the Ford Beauty umbrella) hit the open market, I was wowed. Not only was it launched at a time when 'Hollywood glam' was making a comeback in fashion and beauty, it actually led the charge. Ford had foreseen the trend, and produced an opulent elixir full of drama and elegance to bring to the masses. Now, in 2008, Tom Ford has peered into his crystal ball once again and proclaimed an imminent return to retro-classic influences, and bohemian chic. And therein lies the justification for White Patchouli... Ford's new scent, launching this month.

Patchouli oil was worn to excess in the 70s, in an age where free love and psychedelic 'counterculturalism' was the norm. Now some 30 years later, Ford has borrowed from this revolutionary time, and reworked patchouli into something very different. Just as the hippies were known to explore different states of consciousness, White Patchouli can also be viewed with a sense of 'altered reality'... a modern-day patchouli done through a swirling smokescreen of white flowers and blonde woods.

When first applied, I am struck with a stab of clean bergamot which recedes almost instantly, making way for a very sharp collection of florals. My initial observation is that there is a likeness to the opening spritz of Narciso Rodriguez For Her... it is much like the sensation of drawing a thick silk ribbon across the back of one's neck... icy cool, yet 'humming' with warmth. Rose absolute and jasmine pirouette across the topnotes, but then a 'dirtiness' emerges from below as the famed patchouli ascends to the throne at the heart of this scent. And there it stays, drawing in the satellite accords around it like minions. Whilst patchouli is 'king' here, I find White Patchouli a rather linear fragrance... perhaps after an hour or so, I detect a small shift towards a puff of birchwood and incense, but both are rather lightweight and superficial. I am surprised to find that this perfume's persistence is rather poor - at least on my skin. Whilst I'd strongly advise that it be tried and worn by both men and women (despite it being marketed as a women's fragrance), I do wonder if other users will also have longevity issues that may prevent them from a making full-bottle purchase. If it weren't for this simple flaw, I feel I might have been won over completely. 

There is no denying this is a beautiful perfume, executed well, with a tip of the hat to the 70s. At the same time it is strikingly contemporary. This can be said of much that emerges from the house of Tom Ford. 

Will White Patchouli be a success? I think you can bank on it.

Saturday 6 September 2008

Olivier Durbano: Black Tourmaline

In my book, French jeweller/perfumer Olivier Durbano can do no wrong. Of his three stone poems released to date, I have been entirely enchanted by them all. I perhaps might have baulked at the idea that I would one day come to admire and appreciate every fragrance offering launched by any single 'niche' house; but, here I am with Black Tourmaline in hand, and I have been won over. Again.
In nature, black tourmalines grow in wand-like columns, and are characterised by their raven-black colour and parallel ridges that span the length of the stone. As far as semi-precious stones are concerned, the black tourmaline is dark, raw and mysterious... all qualities of which have been appended and cleverly applied to the perfume.

This scent immediately unfurls with a swelling cloud of sharp black pepper and thick smoked wood... the sensation is intense and palpable; somewhat akin to inhaling the hot, heavy air inside a sauna. All the while, a rich bouquet garni of fragrant spices - cardamom, coriander and cumin - simmer beneath the surface and imbue the air with their dry, aromatic piquancy. A hiss of oudh lends an opulent richness to the composition, and it snakes its way across the glorious frankincense that I have come to recognise as the starring accord in all of Durbano's perfume creations. It is this wonderful incense/resin that is also common to Amethyste and Rock Crystal, and here, it contributes a profound 'otherworldly' appeal. As the fragrance evolves, these accords shift and interweave with dark patchouli, amber and dry woods. 

Black Tourmaline is a hauntingly beautiful eau de parfum. It has phenomenal sillage and remarkable persistence, and can be enjoyed by both men and women. 
Much in the same way black tourmalines were once worn by the ancients for their protection against evil; one might also wear this scent as somewhat of a 'perfume talisman'... one that strikes a curious balance between the earthbound, and the ethereal.

Olivier Durbano is currently working on Jade: the fourth in his series of seven stone poems.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Bvlgari to the Extrême!

It has been a number of years since I worked with the renowned jeweller, hotelier and perfume house, Bvlgari. Their brand is synonymous with style, elegance and luxury, and (I am told) a night's stay in one of their lavishly-appointed hotels can quite literally break the bank (much in the same way purchasing one of their eye-popping baubles might)!

But ever since Greek jeweller Sotiris Bulgaris left his home in Northern Greece in the late 1800's, to set up shop in Rome; the brand that still bares his name to this day has grown into a global powerhouse. More than 100 years after this monumental move to Italy, it was the French perfumer Jean Claude Ellena who was commissioned to create the house's very first Eau de Cologne, named Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert: an elegant splash centred around green tea and soft, clean citruses. It proved a hit, and paved the way for several subsequent releases in the Eau Parfumée range: Eau Thé Blanc, and Eau Thé Rouge. But for my money, I personally feel the concentrated version: Eau Parfumée Au Thé Vert Extrême is the standout scent in this portfolio.
Often unfairly overlooked (and identifiable by it's shorter, wider bottle adorned with a dark green label), the Extrême release is distinctly more intense than the original eau de cologne. An eau de toilette for men and women, this release again focuses on green tea, but also light florals and zesty Italian bergamot. White pepper serves as the humming heart over which these radiant green floral accords shimmer. Where the original EDC seems somewhat harsher and dryer to the nose, the EDT brims with fresh green vitality. I am impressed with its longevity, and as a refreshing summer tonic, Extrême artfully awakens and stimulates the senses. 
I detect some parallels with the citrus accords in Cartier's Declaration For Him, and those also found in Acqua di Parma's Colonia Intensa.

Next time you pass by your local Bvlgari installation (or indeed stay for a time in their opulent Milano hotel or Bali resort), be sure to reward yourself with a spritz of the good stuff. Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert Extrême does not disappoint.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Fraddicted: Are you an Enabler?

When a great many friends peer in upon my sizeable fragrance collection, I'm often told "dude, you're an addict"... "fraddicted", one might even say. And I'd even go as far as to say their observation is somewhat accurate. After all, I've worked many years in the industry, and over time, have amassed an enormous collection - over 600 miniature bottles, countless decants and samples, and drawers brimming with full-sized flacons. But before anyone calls the nearest mental health institution, I'm quick to respond with: "are you an enabler?", because often, its these very same people who come to me seeking advice on colognes, recommendations, and to even borrow the odd spritz before heading out on the town. 

You see, the trouble with addiction is that the addict is often still relied upon by friends, family and colleagues alike. Even the most well-intentioned efforts to shield the addict from the consequences of his (or her) actions, will often result in co-dependant situations. Many will point and jeer and ridicule me for flittering away a portion of my expendable income on "yet another bottle of perfume", and yet they're the same ones who heap upon me, fragrance gift coffrets on birthdays and at xmas.

Ok, so perhaps I do have more juice than any man could ever imagine using in a single lifetime, but that's not the point. We all have our fancies... some smoke to excess, some drink copiously, and others parade around their living rooms with blinds drawn, wearing pink satin knickers... so, I ask you, dear members of the jury, where's the harm in smelling good?
Should I close up shop and deprive the good folk around me of the odd freebie sample, or half-empty bottle of somethingorother that has long since lost its appeal? Would they perhaps prefer I leave the house completely sans cologne and deodorant, and then swing past their house to lounge around on their thick, spongy jacquard sofas for a bit: damp arms thrown idly over the back of the puffy headrest? Hmm? I think not.
Allow a man his vices. This is not an illness. Don't ridicule or criticise, or you might just wind up with a sharp spritz of Kouros to the eye!

Now leave me alone to enjoy my harmless addiction. And close the door behind you please. I've a pair of smelly ballet-slippers to cram my feet into, while I writhe around naked on the floor in a big puddle of scented yellow muck!

Sunday 24 August 2008

Florals for Men: Kenzo Power

Though I've always been fascinated by Japanese minimalism, I've never really warmed to any Kenzo perfume releases. Whilst I've admired their clean packaging and organic-shaped flacons, none of their juices actually appealed to me. Until, that is, the launch of Kenzo Power, their new fragrance for men. A few days ago, I was fortunate enough to be passing through a retail store as this fragrance was being unpacked and placed on shelves. Like an enthusiastic bower-bird, my eye caught sight of the beautiful mirrored flacon sitting across the room, and I swooped in to sample. 
The 125ml bottle felt cold and heavy in my hand... quite industrial when measured against bottles from previous Kenzo perfume releases - however, its smooth, high-shine tapering curves echoed biological lines found in nature. Design-wise, it was an interesting paradox.

The scent itself, opens with a blast of citrusy bergamot, but with the sharp tartness shaved off... a pinch of cardamon does well in diminishing the tangy opening accords, before a beautiful luminous floral heart shifts to the fore. I liken these lustrous accords to those found in Thierry Mugler's Alien... a radiant jasmine tippy-toes over sweet freesia and dusty rose to render this a rather remarkable (and wearable) floral for men. There is no surprise that Olivier Polge (the nose behind Dior Homme) is also the nose behind Power, as the perfume transitions again and a powdery orris-like note emerges... it seems Polge has borrowed from the success of this appealing accord in Homme. There are also fleeting moments where there is an interesting 'synthetic' feel to the fragrance, but that is not to say it is an undesirable quality. In fact, it can be likened to the pleasant rubberyness found in Bvlgari Black, or Malle's Musc Ravageur
The heart notes eventually taper off into a warm woody ambery base of cedar and labadnum, which remain on the skin for a number of hours. I find the overall composition very appealing, and really rather removed from other mainstream men's perfume releases. Whilst Power can be likened in style to a number of other launches, it is quite unique, and marks a bold new direction for Kenzo. It is a sophisticated floral for men that should not be shied away from.

Below, video taken from youtube of the Kenzo Power media launch in Japan.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Australian Designer: Christos Chronis

In the late 80's a design house emerged from Chadstone, the fashion capital of Australia. At the helm was Christopher Chronis, an astute young Greek-Australian businessman with an extraordinary eye for fashion. The company carried his name - Christos - and by the late 90's it went on to celebrate many successes both nationally and abroad with its well-tailored line of women's, men's and bridal fashions.
In 1998, his first fragrances for men and women were launched onto the Australian market: Christos Man and Christos Woman. As the first successful Australian designer to make the transition from catwalk to cologne, the media surrounding the release was staggering. Major retail outlets swelled with customers wishing to sample this exotic elixir, which was dispensed from purple crucifix-shaped flacons, by promotional staff wearing dramatic violet-coloured couture coats. As for the scents themselves, the men's eau de toilette was classed as a woody oriental, and the women's a fruity woody oriental... both with mouth-watering gourmand qualities, which were very much in the same strain as the much celebrated Angel and A*men, produced by fellow designer Thierry Mugler. A very clever press and media campaign supported the launch, and innovative coffrets were offered that both charmed and surprised the consumer. For instance, an exquisitely packaged miniature perfume bottle was presented inside a delicious box of Christos chocolates, each of which was flavoured with an individual accord from the scent itself. Very quickly, it seemed at one stage, that the entire continent had fallen to its knees swooning over "Christos"... until, quite unexpectedly, it vanished. Barely a year had passed since its launch, and retail stores were already completely devoid of a single bottle. Speculations were offered, and rumors followed... but it seemed there was no clear-cut reason why the business "went under". Some years passed, and the fragrance that had succeeded in captivating a nation, had become no more than a ghost. And I missed it dearly.

Christopher Chronis re-emerged in the early 00's and went on to open beautifully appointed fashion retail boutiques in Australia and New Zealand. Since then, Chronis has moved on to design clothes for the Playboy brand, which has secured his success for a great many years to come. As for his perfumes... unfortunately they are now lost to the corridoors of time. For those that came to know and love the scents, its a difficult pill to swallow. I'm sure I speak for many when I say I hope that Christos in its crucifix-shaped bottle, will one day be resurrected.

Friday 15 August 2008

Olivier Durbano - Améthyste

As a person born in February, amethyst is my birthstone, and I've always been drawn to it. Whilst I was a young teenager growing up in the 80's, I was very interested in minerals and semi-precious gemstones. At one time I had amassed a rather sizeable collection of rocks - all of which I treasured for their value; both arcane and aesthetic.

Ever since being introduced to Olivier Durbano's "Rock Crystal", I have anticipated trying the second in his series of seven stone poems: Améthyste. I was so taken by the phenomenal incense accord of his first perfume, that I had hoped it would reappear here. And I was not disappointed. Améthyste is another stellar interpretation of this deep violet variety of quartz. One certainly feels a sense of "purple" when smelling this for the first time. It opens with a delicate fruitiness where raspberry and grape beckon with one finger, before you are pulled down into a dry heart of rose-coloured palisander wood and orris root. As this scent develops, the blooming fruits recede and a puff of jasmine emerges that cartwheels across the composition before vanishing over an ambery, musky base. But it is the extravagant incense that lends its mineralic earthiness to this scent... it is as husky and dry as ancient sandstone that has been brushed away from a relic found in an archeological dig. It embodies the aroma of the earth that this semi-precious gem has been struck from. Like the stunning jewellery Durbano crafts by hand, this is a perfume to be treasured.

The bottle itself contains three genuine amethyst beads, suspended in the juice. As I turn the flacon in my hands and listen to the satisfying tinkle of the mauve orbs against the glass, I wonder if the liquid has imbued the stones with perfume, or, if indeed the perfume has been released by the stones.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Ambre Narguilé - Hermessence

There is something to be said for the onset of winter. As the days draw in and the temperature plunges below freezing, there is a real sense of melancholy in the air. I often enjoy strolling outdoors at that time of year, taking in the smells of the neighbourhood and being a part of a bleak landscape painted in hues of pallid grey and midnight blue. But if the rain begins, or the wind picks up, I'll often pull my coat tight around my body, bury my nose under my collar and head for home. The allure of warm orange hues and the welcoming aroma of a hot meal blazing in the oven, will always win out over wet shoes and a dripping nose. There is something incredibly comforting and familiar about the smell of food when stepping in from the cold.

In 2004, Hermés nose Jean Claude Ellena managed to create one of my favourite "comfort" scents: the accomplished Ambre Narguilé - a deliciously charming blend of soft spice, woods and floral accords... the sum of which surprisingly emulates the mouth-watering aroma of fresh-baked apple cinnamon pie. One will surely swoon at the memory of such delights with the first spritz of this extraordinary fragrance. Its remarkable composition echoes rum-soaked raisins and cinnamon strudel with a light dusting of sugar, but in a very Hermés manner. Ellena has taken much care to lift the perfume out of the bakehouse, and manipulate it into something so much more opulent. White orchid, honey, ginger, amber, caramel and vanilla all lend themselves to the gourmand nature of this scent, but after an hour or two, the sweet edge subsides and makes way for a warm, tobacco, smokey, incense-like drydown which is peppered with allspice.

Many of the Hermessence fragrances each have a culinary quality (eg: the mildly spiced Paprika Basil, the anise-inspired Brin de Réglisse), but Ambre Narguile is by far the most paralyzing... it will soothe and narcotize with its deeply addictive bouquet. 

The Hermessence line can only be purchased exclusively at Hermés boutiques the world over. 

Monday 11 August 2008

Scented Desktop

Today I spent a little time photographing some of my colognes. I don't consider myself a professional  photographer by any stretch of the imagination, however I had a lot of fun with it. As a result, I'm sharing some of the results with you in the form of a downloadable desktop. I wonder how many you can identify.

Just click on the smaller picture above, and then click and drag or 'save' the larger version to your desktop. Screen size 1024 x 768.

Saturday 9 August 2008

Mukhallat Al Emirates

Its no secret that recently I've enjoyed excursions into the world of Middle Eastern perfumery. This came about after a fellow enthusiast named Simon, sent me a bounty of tiny cotton swabs, each of which had been anointed with exotic eastern oils. Like little bags of narcotic substances, when I came to open that fragrant parcel in my home, I introduced my nose to new aromas that I'd never smelled the likes of before. My office space remained thick with odiferous molecules for many days after.

And therein lies the challenge... these days I find it almost impossible to be wowed by a new perfume. It seems every time I sample newly launched scents, they are, more often than not, rehashed and reworked releases from the past... which is why this journey into eastern oils has been an exciting adventure. Prior to this, I'd have asked "who knows what a gazelle smells like?", or "what is the odour of a wood fungus?"... but the answers were right there - their molecules transferred carefully onto small pads of cotton.

I noted that many of the carefully-packaged bundles were labelled "mukhallat", which is a term I later learned is applied to a "mix" of various perfume oils. One of the shining stars amongst these test swabs, was Mukhallat Al Emirates, a very robust and opulent elixir. This is a scent that is brimming with crisp musks, but also gives the impression of being thick like molasses... like one is wading waist-deep through aromatic velvet-petalled roses. There is also a delicious puff of oud-like incense beneath the floral heart that teleports the wearer to the colourful bustling souks and medinas of the East. I was won over.

Mukhallat Al Emirates is a three-dimensional scent that surpasses the best of any of the highly popularized Montale offerings. As an oil, just a tiny dab is sufficient to last an entire day. And at around $8 for a quarter tola of oil (one tola being 12ml), it offers excellent value for money.

Monday 4 August 2008

A brief hiatus

I just wanted to post a very quick notice that I am currently under the gun with an enormous work task, that should see me unable to post on the blog for a couple of days. If all goes according to plan, I will be back this weekend, August the 9th, with more perfume ramblings. Thanks in advance for your understanding.

Fragrant wishes,
Dimitri - The redolent one.

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Amber: A perfume myth

Living in Denmark, I suppose I can call myself fortunate in some regards. It is true that Denmark is a country shaped by the extreme weather and the harsh winds blowing in from the the North sea. My delight is in learning that with the wind, the sea unearths prehistoric treasure in the form of vegetal amber. Amber is the name given to the fossilised deposits of resin created by trees, that have hardened over tens of millions of years. The golden lumps of amber that one can easily find scattered along the beach after a storm, indicate that vast forests of pine once flourished where the sea now lies. 

Contrary to popular belief, however, amber - when used in perfumery - is not of this vegetal variety. It is considered almost impossible to extract a scented oil from this ancient resource, and attempts at doing so are highly destructive and yield minimal results. It would be much like trying to extract the odour of a stone. So, why do so many perfume houses reference amber as a key component of a new scent? Well, basically, the term 'amber' is loosely used to describe a quality in perfume that is warm, rich and honeylike, and also somewhat powdery, oriental and earthy. In perfume, synthetic ambers are often created and patented by the large manufacturing houses to emulate the opulent golden warmth of the fossil. Otherwise, oils taken from modern resins and tree gums such as benzoin and labdanum are obtained for their warm spicy qualities, and are often cut with other oils such as vanilla, clove or patchouli to further enhance their aroma. Fragrance companies that claim they have created a "true amber" perfume are simply writing a poem to lull and entice the consumer.

Nonetheless, I do enjoy the qualities that "amber" lends to perfume, even though it can only be a modern interpretation borrowed from this petrified remnant of the past. As the focus of many myths and legends, I will continue to trawl the shoreline after a winter storm in the hope of snagging a sizeable lump of this extraordinary gemstone.

Monday 28 July 2008

Eau Noire - Dior

French-Armenian perfumer Francis Kurkdjian never ceases to amaze me. At such a young age, he is already the recipient of the coveted Francois Coty Prize for Lifetime Achievement as a perfume creator, and has numerous global fragrance triumphs to his credit, including Gaultier's retail smash Le Male, and the much adored Narciso Rodriguez for Her. Now at the helm of his own atelier, Kurkdjian continues to demonstrate his extraordinary talent whilst designing scents for international design houses and bespoke perfumes for the well-heeled.

Arguably one of his finest achievements to date, is the oriental fougere created in 2004 for Dior, named "Eau Noire" (Black Water). This scent for men and women, is one-third of the Couture Collection trio of colognes, available through select retail outlets and Dior boutiques. It can only be described as "inspired" - pushing the envelope by meshing the fougere (fern) perfume classification together with a rich oriental. The result is a harmonious blend that is as lush and succulent as an emerald New Zealand forest, and as thick and mysterious as an oriental bazaar. Clary sage, violet, lavender and cedar ripple over a strumming heart of helichrysum, caraway, leather, bitter coffee and smooth vanilla. Olfactory chiaroscuro is at work here... there are contrasting lights and shadows at play... rich spices and dark woods are stippled with bright, creamy vanilla and tranquilizing lavender. It offers welcoming familiarity with its honeyed warm hues, and also an uncharted greenness which begs to be explored. The juxtaposition of accords is genius, and the overall impact is velvety, comforting and engaging. Eau Noire remains earthy, natural and grounded. It has reasonable sillage and can be detected up to 8 hours after initial application.

I will be the first to recommend this fine Kurkdjian creation, which serves to represent just one of his many present successes.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

DEMETER: Singular Scents

An interesting little company that is on the international rise is Demeter... the US firm that manufactures 'singular scents' of everyday things. The concept is a clever one... by measuring the molecular structure of different odours in a laboratory, Demeter can re-create any one of them - and in doing so, they have built a Library of Fragrance which holds almost any single scent you can think of. 
Love the smell of fresh baked bread, cut grass, thunder storms or pina coladas? Then you'll be sure to find it here. There are literally hundreds of odours on the Demeter homepage that run the gamut from the divine to the downright dreadful. If Mildew, Turpentine and Beetroot are not your style, then perhaps you can be tempted by Cinnamon Bun, Creme Brulée and Sex on the Beach.
What is immediately striking about this comprehensive series, is how true they are to the original source. Whilst one can't truly imagine wanting to smell like a laundromat or earthworm, I have to give Demeter kudos for their meticulous accuracy. Whilst I wouldn't say many of these are particularly wearable for every occasion, I do have to make mention of one that has made a grand impact on me... Gingerale. I am astonished at how Demeter has captured the sparkling effervescence of the true carbonated drink. It prickles at the back of the nose with a familiar dryness. Packed with rich clove and zesty lime, this is an appealing feel-good fragrance that has done well in turning heads (in a good way, of course).
Everyone tends to have their own "favourite smells" which may have been influenced by past recollection or modern fixation, but whatever case may be, Demeter is more than likely to have catalogued it. For use as either a room freshener, a gag gift, or a personal cologne, I am confident Demeter will have something that will appeal to you too. Visit their website here.

Monday 21 July 2008

Sisley: Eau de Campagne

There is something to be said about the royalty of family. Whether it be aristocratic or otherwise, there is a sense of strength and power evident when one is aligned with kin. In history, the preservation of one's name and one's bloodline was of paramount importance... and whilst today we seldom war for this purpose any more; there is still a proud feeling of sovereign interconnectedness between parents and offspring that all strive for a common goal.

The d'Ornano family of France founded the French company Sisley in 1976, and for three generations, this family business has pioneered research and development of aromatherapy and phytocosmetology. Sisley is a company built by a father, mother, son & daughter team whose perfectionism and drive has made Sisley one of the most prestigious brands in the industry. 

With three exclusive fragrances to their credit, the delightful Eau de Campagne is brimming with vitality and freshness. Favoured by both men and women, Eau de Campagne is a shimmering blend of lush green tomato leaf, freshly-cut green grass and sparkling citrus. Its herbaceous quality is instantly uplifting, and the elegant composition oozes sophistication - much like their tasteful advertising images of rolling green hills, opulent gardens and welcoming retreats. It is audacious and dynamic, and serves as a bracing feel-good tonic which sharpens the mind and refreshes the body throughout the day. One can immediately detect quality here. Perhaps, if in reality you are not of royal blood or aristocratic descent, a few drops of this luminous fragrance may do very well in suggesting you are. For this, is the verdant nectar of nobility.

Friday 18 July 2008

CoSTUME NATIONAL: A Design Institution

I've always been a fan of lean silhouettes cut close to the body... a hallmark of Italian fashion powerhouse CoSTUME NATIONAL. CN founder and designer, Ennio Capasa, has led his brand from strength to strength since the doors opened in 1986. His work embodies the marriage between modern sophistication and timeless Italian tailoring. His extraordinary vision favours dark and natural tones, and materials that have been researched with meticulous detail. Passionately interested in all aspects of the industry, Ennio takes an active part in the design of his garments, retail spaces, fragrances and flacons. The brand carries his fingerprint.
In 2002, Costume National launched a trio of fragrances. Capasa teamed up with IFF perfumer Laurent Bruyere and together they created perfumes that were designed to fit the body as competently as the clothing line. The flagship fragrance aptly named "Scent" was flanked by a lighter 'sheer' version, and the incredible Scent Intense - a compelling, concentrated eau de parfum.

Wearing Intense is like wearing a theatrical mask - its initial impact is unanticipated and ambiguous, but beneath lies something familiar and inviting.  Jasmine tea, hibiscus and amber play key roles in its composition, all of which cartwheel across fragrant woody accents. Sensuous, exotic, mystical, intense
For a designer release, it does not conform to the "mainstream" norm; rather, it is as bold, as edgy, and as striking as the fashion itself. Dark, refined, enchanting. 

Despite it originally being created for women, Scent Intense is also well-loved by men as a daring and avant garde creation. Every time I have worn Scent Intense to a gathering, I have been asked what I am wearing without fail. I rarely reveal the name. This one is best kept for those with an acute appreciation of the CN ethic, and of course, the art of modern perfume.

In late 2007, Costume National launched a new scent named "21" - a unisex fragrance composed of 21 accords, and celebrating 21 years as a fashion house. This is yet to be reviewed, and I am excited.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Chartreuse, Capri & Carthusia...

God love those crazy monks of the Carthusian Order. Dedicated to a life of solitude and holiness, in 1605 they still managed to invent the alcoholic liqueur Chartreuse from 130 herbal extracts. (Things must have become pret-ty rowdy at the monasteries on occasion). I suppose we can collectively thank them for sobering memories of our teenage introduction to the greeny-yellow demon drink, which - more often than not - either resulted in somebody getting hurt, arrested or violently ill.
Fortunately, their contribution to the finer things in life does not end with this kermit-coloured elixir.

Centuries before the cloistral distilleries were producing alcoholic beverages, the monks of Certosa San Giacomo in Italy are credited with the creation of the first perfume of Capri in 1380. In celebration of a visit by the Queen Giovanna d'Anglio to the monastery, a huge bouquet of locally grown flowers was arranged in her honour. Days after her departure when the flowers were thrown away, the prior noticed that the water had acquired a unique perfume. The scent was then re-created, and became the basis for several perfume formulas which were later uncovered in 1948 and revived by a small chemist in Torino under permission from the Pope. The tradition is being continued now by the niche house, Carthusia. Creating scents for both men and women, I am particularly fond of their creation Carthusia Uomo. Irresponsibly and flippantly reviewed by Tanya Sanchez in The Guide, this is a scent that deserves a closer look.

Uomo opens with a distinct marine-like quality. For a crushing millisecond your nose wants you to believe that you've smelled this creation before, but this sensation is only fleeting. Moments later, it is as if it's single marine accord blossoms into flower and each separate accord can be identified and accounted for: citrus, rosewood, seaweed, violet. Imagine a "standard" masculine oceanic scent, and then try to recreate it in your mind using 10,000 flowers... in this way, Uomo has a spectacular complexity. It is proudly masculine in nature - and distinctly Italian - but the complex and varied individual accords are delicate and soft - almost like muted building blocks that all amount to a boldly refined and elegant whole. Perhaps the most enjoyable quality of this fragrance is its very pleasurable dry-down. When warmed by your skin, rich animalic/musky accords emerge that are not the least bit unpleasant. A fine balance has been struck between the sharp and crisp accords, and the velvety dark ones. 

One wears Carthusia Uomo like a time-worn monk's robe. It is both modest and costume-like; revealing much about oneself, whilst at the same time, fostering an air of secrecy.

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Hermés: Eau d'Orange Verte

Eau d'Orange Verte is, in my opinion, the jewel in the crown of citrus fragrances.

Created in 1979 by perfumer Francoise Caron for the house of Hermés, L'eau de Cologne Hermés was later re-christened Eau d'Orange Verte in 1997. 

This is a rousing blend whose topnotes sparkle with acidic lemon and zesty mandarin. It is instantly embracing, offering one of the finest bursts of citrus goodness on the market. There is a beautiful herbaceous greenness and delicate florals that allow this scent to truly blossom on the skin. It is deep and rich... layers of fragrant wood and patchouli beneath form a beautiful base upon which this composition rests. It is also vivid and dynamic... inspiring harmonious visions of warm Meditterranean days with the sun blazing overhead. One can imagine diving into a bottomless emerald lake surrounded by dense orange trees that are all releasing their energising perfume on the air.  
Part of Ed'OV's success lies with its old timeless, elegant charm. It is a scent which is both remarkably simple, and yet surprisingly profound.

Sadly, Eau d'Orange Verte (the original eau de cologne version) has disappointing persistence. Thirty minutes after application, little remains. But, for my money, those bracing luxurious minutes relished right after spraying, are well and truly worth it. In 2004, an eau de toilette version was created, named Concentrée d'Orange Verte, but as far as Im concerned, it falls well short of the original. What the concentrée makes up for in terms of longevity, it lacks in the integrity of the composition. It introduces an odd spearmint-like creaminess, that I feel detracts from the pristine clarity of its predecessor. The dry-down is also a little too synthetic, to my nose.

Hermés in-house 'nose' Jean-Claude Ellena  has contributed enormously to reviving the brand's fragrance profile. But he has big shoes to fill if he is ever to fabricate a scent that is as timeless and as lavish as this. Are you up to the challenge, Monsieur Ellena?