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.