Thursday 30 December 2010

New Year Blogging Event: 2010 In Review

This year Sorcery of Scent is pleased to be a part of the 2010 End-of-Year blogging event in which 14 avid blogs revisit the year that was and hand out gold stars for the scents that impressed, and red crosses for those that failed to come close.
(Be sure to visit the full list of participating perfume blogs at the bottom of this post).

Here are my picks for 2010...

Most desirable Flacon of the Year: L'Abeille de Guerlain
Yes, it costs an arm and a leg, but who can argue that the spectacular bee-shaped Baccarat crystal flacon limited to only 47 pieces worldwide isn't just the bees knees? Je l'adore!

Niche Perfume of the Year - Womens: Fleur Nocturne - Isabey
Honouring their rich heritage well into the 21st century, Isabey have epitomised ageless charm and timeless sophistication with this lavish spin on their early 19th century classic 'Bleu de Chine'.

Niche Perfume of the Year - Mens: Cuir - Mona di Orio
Effectively a unisex release, Mona di Orio's Cuir is a brawny, balsamic take on leather which is sensuous, bold and commanding. Its woody, smokey quality makes for a resolutely rugged scent with animalic undertones.

Niche Perfume of the Year - Unisex: Pink Quartz - Olivier Durbano
Durbano's inspired spicy chypre Pink Quartz appeals to both men and women... its delicate rose heart is piquant with fragrant saffron and Somali oliban. It had tongues wagging all over Esxence.
Runner Up: Opus III - Amouage

Designer Perfume of the Year - Womens: Idylle EDT - Guerlain
Thierry Wasser's new eau de toilette version of 2009's Guerlain release Idylle is a gorgeous floral focusing on the Bulgarian rose facets of the original. Spirited, lively, sexy. A winner in my book.

Designer Perfume of the Year - Mens: 10th Anniversary Fragrance - John Varvatos
Citrus, cinnamon, precious woods and leather seen through a swirling incense smokescreen make JV's 10th Anniversary Fragrance an assertive and powerful mainstream release. As a 2010 limited edition, get it before its gone.

Designer Perfume of the Year - Unisex: Wonderwood - Comme des Garcons
Quirky yet classy, Wonderwood crammed every possible wood accord into one bottle, and still managed to create something understated, sophisticated, and very avante garde. Two thumbs up!

Best Reformulation of the Year: Onda EDP - Vero Profumo
The lavish old-world atmosphere of Onda extrait has not been lost in this brand new eau de parfum incarnation. In 2010, Vero Kern tweaked the topnotes in the EDP to add more infinite depth and character. 10/10!

Worst Reformulation of the Year: Opium - Yves Saint Laurent
Booooo! Hisssss! L'Oreal have destroyed an old classic. Not only does the new flacon look cheap and tupperware-like, the new Opium formula is now a sad shadow of its former self. Yves must be turning in his grave. Unforgivable!

Best Emerging Luxury Brand: XerJoff
XerJoff went from strength to strength in 2010 as they expanded their portfolio of exceptionally crafted fine fragrances. Superb craftsmanship, quality materials and meticulous attention to detail have catapulted them into the stratosphere.

On a personal Note...

This year I had the pleasure of truly discovering the house of Guerlain. It has been an infinitely rewarding experience, and one that I feel will be ongoing.
On the whole I probably spent much more money than I should have, and much more time on the internet than perhaps my family might have liked; but as Sorcery of Scent steps over the threshold and into its 4th year, I would like to thank YOU - the reader - for your valued readership, contributions, comments and support. You make what I do worth the effort and the time spent in this noisy swivel-chair!

Happy New Year! Many rewards and blessings be with you in 2011.


Check out the other participating blogs by clicking on the following links:

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Part 2) - Day V: Guerlinade

In 1998, celebrating their 170th year in perfume, Guerlain re-launched Guerlinade; a Jean Paul Guerlain creation based loosely on the original perfume of the same name created in 1922 by his grandfather Jacques.

Traditionally, the name Guerlinade has become well known as the house accord or "red thread" that ties many Guerlain creations together - a series of notes (vanilla, jasmine, iris and rose) that are used in numerous Guerlain perfumes that serve as the house's own uniquely recognisable fingerprint. Jean Paul's interpretation however, does not follow the same olfactory trajectory. Rather, it is a celebration of flowers that uses a handful of the original components, as well as an abundance of others.

First of all, Guerlinade has a striking opening of bergamot (reportedly Calabrian) over rich florals. The florals are rather dense, and thus the bergamot is lost a little - really only furnishing the perfume with a crispness upon its initial application. Next, one of the featuring notes - and indeed one introduced for the first time by Jean Paul - is lilac. Bushels and bushels of the stuff! Anyone who has ever lifted the tiny star-shaped florets to their nose will instantly appreciate their use here... their perfume is assertive and almost spicy. There is also a feeling of 'rubberiness' that I glean from flowers such as lilac and hyacinth, and that aspect is also at hand in Guerlinade. Here, the lilacs are endearing and sympathetic, suggesting a slightly damp, sun-speckled morning in the springtime.

Perhaps following the traditional Guerlinade formula more closely, I detect an ample use of jasmine and rose, though the latter is possibly used less liberally than one might expect. (The rose facet is blended well, but used more as a supportive strut to underpin the more spirituous florals). There is a dry iris accord that works well, running parallel to a creamy tonka / vanilla base. The vanilla (supposedly sourced from the East-African island of Mayotte), lingers on the skin, carrying the delicious lilac through well into the drydown.

The beautiful Baccarat flacon created by Robert Granai for this 1998 edition was based on the design of a bronze Nepalese vase used in wedding ceremonies. Granai recognised the draped glass contours as being exquisitely feminine.
Guerlinade is an attractive floral oriental that is both sensual and captivating. Whilst it is not the exact same perfume as has been traditionally used to distinguish a Guerlain creation from that of another house, it is very Guerlain in its approach and appeal; an often-overlooked gem. Guerlinade has since been re-released in 2002 for a short time, and again in the Les Parisiennes lineup in 2005 (also now discontinued).
Get it while you can.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Part 2) - Day IV: Ode

It is no coincidence that the last perfume ever created by Jacques Guerlain was called "Ode", as it represented an olfactory milestone in his career; the final perfume poem in his body of work which spanned 65 years. It also marked the very first efforts of his then 18-year old grandson Jean Paul Guerlain who was set to ascend to the throne at 68 Champs Élysées.
Ode also marked a turning point in the style of perfume that was to emerge from the house of Guerlain in the decades to come. Jacques Guerlain's somewhat sombre, mature creations launched between the two world wars were soon to replaced with arguably more spirited, dynamic works of art under an enthusiastic young Jean Paul's direction.

I find the contrast in Ode's advertising noteworthy too. In one regard, the advertising almost has a funerary feel... an ashen harp-playing cherub is depicted perhaps mourning the end of an era; whilst in striking contrast, Ode is portrayed as being energetic and new-fangled against violet hues and bushels of verdant green. This visual inconsistency illustrates a perfume perhaps standing at the crossroads of tradition and modernity... one whose purpose was maybe to appeal to an existing, more mature market, whilst at the same time, was establishing a brand new one.

Ode is a bright floral perfume with one foot planted in the past, and one foot planted in the future. In 2010, we can now review all the Guerlain creations of the 20th century, and I can see where Ode embraced classic perfume styles with its use of aldehydes, jasmine and rose, but also gives us a taste of things to come... I sense a prelude of other Jean Paul Guerlain prefumes sitting just over the horizon: the likes of Chant d'Arômes, Parure and Nahema.
Ode is a rich floral that has been likened to Jean Patou's Joy, though I personally don't feel it bares much of a resemblance. Indeed, it does focus on jasmine and velvety rose, but Ode is pregnant with other surprises... I glean a very green accord lying beneath the floral fanfare in the opening spritz... a crisp green/floral accord much like muguet. This brisk virescent facet synchronises well with the aldehydes and lends a dry piquancy to the perfume. There is a slightly dirty facet too which I would attribute to tuberose... a fleeting sensation of carnal liveliness. My nose also struggles to pinpoint the cause of a rather transitory but delightful 'rubbery' facet... perhaps there is a whisper of hyacinth unfurling within. Some time later, the rose/jasmine duo recede a little whilst the aldehydes turn to powder, and a creamy vanilla base becomes apparent... there is a hint of muskiness in the base that shifts the honeyed nature of the vanilla in a more libidinous direction.

To my mind, Jacques and Jean Paul not only intended Ode to memorialise the efforts of a perfume master and mark the inauguration of a new perfume nose, but also to act as an olfactory aria to femininity itself. Now lost to time (despite ongoing rumours of a possible resurrection), Ode remains the one perfume collaboration between two perfume greats; a moving and impassioned marriage of ideas, and - of course - ages.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Part 2) - Day III: Véga (Vintage)

Few know that Jacques Guerlain had a significant interest in astronomy, and that he frequently pored over published dissertations on the subject. It is no surprise then, that in 1936 he came to draw inspiration from the 5th brightest star in the night sky, and one that has been referenced in ancient mythology for millennia: Véga.

Originally released in the iconic Baccarat "inkwell" flacon, Véga typified the new and innovative perfume stylings of the Art Deco age. Only 15 years earlier, Coco Chanel had released her aldehydic beast Chanel No.5 onto the world stage to great acclaim, which resulted in a mass tendency towards the use of aldehydes in perfumery. In answer to Chanel's ground-breaking creation, Jacques Guerlain released the aldehyde-rich luminous floral Liu in 1927, and revisited the aldehydic theme in Véga; though this time with a masterfully measured hand. Véga presented aldehydes in a vastly different manner - somehow scattered and diminished - as if the scent itself, much like starlight, had travelled for millennia across space and time.

Véga has all the markers of a classic aldehydic perfume but for one thing: a generous dose of vanilla. It opens with a sharp floral crispness that rushes to dry the back of the nose... bright neroli and ylang ylang accompany strong aldehydes through the topnotes, but a denser velvety heart of rose rests just under the surface. This strokeable rose accord harmonises with the powdery aspect of the aldehydes, and the whole heart of the perfume suddenly becomes very tactile. A dewy, thick vanilla note materialises, and adds a feeling of creamy, ambery warmth. This is where I feel Véga and other classic floral aldehydes diverge in style... it feels as if with Jacques Guerlain's interpretation, he has shifted the radio transmission a little 'off' to receive signals through a screen of white noise and static. The white/yellow florals are still there, but seem to be flourishing under a cream-coloured blanket of cashmere-soft vanilla. There is a lingering trail of subtle woods in the drydown: dry vetiver and what I expect might be fragrant sandalwood.

When pitted against the 2006 reissued version, the vintage Véga edt wins me over just by a hair. There just seems to be a celestial harmony between the notes that makes it slightly easier to wear than the modern release. As with the heavenly body itself, I feel the light of 1930's Véga might have changed ever-so-slightly in the time it has taken to reach us here in 2010.

Monday 27 December 2010

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Part 2) - Day II: Cuir de Russie

Whilst detailed information is hard to pin down, Aimé Guerlain is credited with the creation of Guerlain's Cuir de Russie in around 1875, making it one of the world's first olfactory interpretations of Russian Leather; a theme that would be revisited many times by many perfumers in the late 19th century, and appear again and again well into the 20th. In order to explore the idea behind this perfume, lets take a brief look at what was happening in Europe at that time.

By the late 1800's, internally, industry in Russia was booming and the middle class grew in number and influence, though unfortunately, in part at the expense of the peasants. As a result, revolutionary tensions were at hand. Externally however, Russia was an untouchable flourishing powerhouse whose intervention in the Balkans against Ottoman rule had clearly illustrated to the rest of Europe, their colossal strength and spirituous resolve. Russia was looked upon in envy as a glittering empire, despite her volatile political climate on the interior.

At this time of military engagement, it has been suggested that Aimé Guerlain was inspired by Russian military leather boots when producing this perfume, as Russian leather is distinguishable by its unique odour. Traditionally, real Russian leather is tanned with bark from the willow, larch or poplar trees, and then rubbed with birch-tree bark oil. The scent profile is very distinctive.

Guerlain's Cuir de Russie opens with what feels to me like bergamot, orange blossom, and perhaps galbanum; an enchanting flight which is citrusy, floral and slightly green, but reservedly so... it tapers away rather swiftly before a dryness begins to swell from beneath. A thin grey ribbon of smoke meanders up from the heart of the perfume and brings with it a very parched sensation. It feels as dry as a dusty coal mine, with a fine black curtain of soot shifting on the air. I also recognise a very smokey tarry birch accord which is quite bitter, in keeping with genuine Russian leather style. It is somewhat animalic - I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is a tiny huff of civet present, though it is paired well alongside the rich leather facets. What I also find remarkable, is that whilst the "cuir" aspect is quite commanding, the perfume still remains a little transparent... one is not overwhelmed with the dizzying aromas of a smoke cupboard or tannery. It manages to tippy-toe the fine line between being defiantly feminine and devoutly masculine.

Cuir de Russie has remarkable tenacity. As it lingers on the skin, I feel a shift from the smokiness of the leather to a rather lovely camphoraceous chypre base of dry vetiver and oakmoss... what I would call a 'signature' Guerlain treatment. Here one begins to garner a sense of the opulence and romance of the Russian empire; the gilded halls of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, or the patterned spires of St Basilis on Moscow's Red Square.
Aimé Guerlain not only succeeded in capturing the essence of Russian leather in his Cuir de Russie creation, but also memorialized the essence of that age.

Sunday 26 December 2010

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Part 2) - Day I: L'Abeille de Guerlain

When Thierry Wasser was announced as head nose at the helm of arguably the world's most coveted perfume house Guerlain, he had some big shoes to fill. For almost two centuries, the family-run business nurtured and educated a single bloodline to sit in the perfumer's chair, passing on knowledge and expertise that remained a coveted family secret. When Jean Paul Guerlain stepped down as nose in 2002 and stayed on as advisor, much was expected of the new in-house perfumer Monsieur Wasser. All eyes were trained in his direction, and lips hushed as many sought to discover if Wasser could continue to uphold the celebrated legacy of the perfume giant. In 2008, Guerlain launched Guerlain Homme to Wasser's credit, though it suffered a luke-warm reception. In 2009 Idylle was introduced too. But in 2010, Wasser gave us L'Abeille de Guerlain, and everyone finally breathed out.

L'Abeille de Guerlain is limited to production of only 47 numbered flacons holding 245ml of perfume worldwide, hence it is not at all easy to obtain. The sculptural baccarat presentation is not only stunning to look at, but I also feel, befitting of the incredible elixir inside. Wasser was inspired by bees... the creature that has stood as the company emblem for centuries, and also represents the sovereign crown. Wasser "followed the bee" when creating this perfume, painting a picture of a summer garden speckled with blooming yellow flowers. L'Abeille de Guerlain is a tribute to verdant green, dense opulent florals and one whose queen accord is the narcotising note of mimosa.

Mimosa has a distinct honey-like perfume... it is tenacious and luxurious, but with soft, powdery qualities that render it tender and graceful. It brushes over the skin like the tickle of a soft feather, and with its yellow velvety perfume, truly epitomizes the scent of summer. One can hear the ring of cicadas in their ears, and feel the sting of the sun across their legs. L'Abeille de Guerlain shifts and caresses like a soft summer breeze where the hum of the bees is carried on the air. A warm band of honey is apparent... not at all saccharine, and melds with the mimosa seamlessly. Tiny stars of jasmine and yellow ribbons of ylang ylang cartwheel over an orange-blossom heart... they are tender and tranquilizing; lulling you to nap with a book on your chest in a hammock strung between two trees. There is a sense of monarchial romance about this perfume... an elixir that harkens back to the perfume of immaculately maintained royal gardens, or lover's games of hide-and-seek in flowering, leafy labyrinths.

L'Abeille de Guerlain is both carnal and chaste, and ever so pretty! In my opinion, Thierry Wasser has certainly done Guerlain proud.
If you are fortunate enough to sample this verdurous golden essence, heed my simple warning before you hold it to your nose: beware... you will absolutely want to own it. And with a €12,500 price tag, in this particular fairytale - unless you are extremely well-heeled - there are no happy endings.
What do you think it would take to have them release this perfume in a less expensive presentation?

Saturday 11 December 2010

Andy Tauer Le Cologne du Maghreb - Brief Review

Today, Sorcery of Scent is proud to be a part of Andy Tauer's 2010 Advent Calendar Giveaway! Each day in December, Andy is giving away a 50ml bottle of his strictly limited edition fragrance Le Cologne du Maghreb. This scent is not for public sale, and has already become a highly prized perfume! More details on how you can win your own bottle below.

But first, a quick review.

When one hears the word "Maghreb" when associated with the work of Andy Tauer, one immediately thinks of his much-loved fragrance release: L'air du Desert Marocain. This fragrance release of several years ago embodies the aromas of the spice markets and soukhs and the dry, swirling desert sands. Where Le Cologne du Maghreb differs, is in its interpretation... this cologne evokes a feeling of a far-flung desert oasis... an Eden of lush green on a parched desert plane.

Le Cologne du Maghreb is a scent using 100% natural oils, and follows to some extent the format of a traditional cologne composition. It is a scent focusing on zesty citrus and dry woods, but this blend is resolutely Andy Tauer in its approach. It opens with a detonation of juicy citrus; bergamot, lemon, clemantine, grapefruit, lemon, orange blossom and neroli... each of which contribute to evoking a feeling of replenishment and rejuvenation with its lush, mouthwatering greenness. A rich heart of rose becomes instantly apparent and lends an exotic 'near-eastern' facet to the fragrance... it is velvety and soft and is balanced well against the sharp citruses. Cedarwood plays a starring role in the basenotes, as inspired by the trees of the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains... it communicates a sense of dryness... like the desert is near, just beyond the boundary of this extraordinary sanctuary.

An eau de cologne by concentration, Andy recommends it be worn liberally, as most colognes should. I find its longevity to be on par with an eau de toilette, but revel in its generous application also. Whilst it is not L'Air du Desert Marocain, it is certainly comparable as its sister scent... one that celebrates the fertile green of a desert sanctuary, whilst the dunes shift around it.