Wednesday 24 February 2016

GUERLAIN - Les Absolus d'Orient : Ambre Eternel

In 2014, Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser introduced Santal Royal, the first scent in a series of fragrances directed firmly at the middle eastern market. Les Absolus d'Orient explore exotic raw materials common in the East, and 2016, Guerlain has launched it's second Ambre Eternal.

I feel - before I write my actual review - that the term 'amber' deserves some disambiguation. You see, it's somewhat common in the fragrance world - particularly for newcomers - for one to be bamboozled by the term. Here on Sorcery of Scent, I've blogged before about vegetal amber (i.e.: the hardened nuggets of tree sap, fossilised over many decades), and this is the component that many recognise when one sees the 'amber' being used in a perfume pyramid, or in a perfume's name. The scent profile of this type of amber is characterised usually by a blend of individual components such as labdanum, vanilla and patchouli. The 'other' amber, however, is grey amber (ambergris) - a by-product of the sperm whale which is highly coveted by perfumers for it's fixative qualities. Ambergris is formed in the gut of the sperm whale, whose diet comprises chiefly of squid. The hard squid beaks and cartilage that is not easily digested by the whale remain in the intestine, and over time, is covered by a thick, waxy intestinal secretion that grows and grows in size as the whale ages. Whilst many have suggested that the whale somehow passes this colossal blob from it's body (through regurgitation), the truth is that the process has never been witnessed and thus cast's a shadow of doubt. Others believe that the whale in fact perishes as a result of this intestinal obstruction, and when the carcass is eventually broken down by sharks and other feeding marine animals, the indigestible mass is released into the sea, where it floats for many years, taking on a richer, marine/balsamic quality.
The reason for the short lesson here, is because Ambre Eternal is much less the former, (vegetal amber) and much more the latter (grey amber).  This excites me no end, as ambergris interpretations in modern perfumery are scant, and perhaps none I find more enjoyable than this new Guerlain release.

With expectations of a honey-like sweet amber extinguished, one can approach Ambre Eternal with a sense of excitement, because it is quite literally like nothing you might have imagined. First of all, for one, it feels very Thierry Wasser. By this, I mean it does not hold any olfactory markers that liken it to the Jacques and Jean-Paul creations of the house... rather, it pushes forward just as one now expects from Thierry's work; that is, it continues to plot a new point in the arc that is the new Guerlain of the two-thousand-and-teens.
Ambre Eternel has a curious flight - one which instantly veers away from the usual Guerlain citrus/floral quickstep, and instead feels somewhat ashen and animalic from the outset. A spiced scattering of dry coriander and cardamom seed introduces an almost-instant ambergris / leathery feel... a sense of balsamic earthiness that immediately tells you this is not a(nother) vegetal amber interpretation. A very delicate peachey/ylang-ylang ribbon underpins the composition; never quite reaching the dizzying heights of Mitsouko et al, but rather, acts as a supportive strut to the composition, lending a light tenderness to what feels like quite a gruff, masculine framework. Precious woody notes play off the slightly salty ambergris, which leave a dry sensation at the back of the nose. But somewhere within - as Ambre Eternal warms on skin - there is a curious fleecy, almost waxy facet. It is warm, husky and very animalic - perhaps much like one might imagine the back of an elephant's ear to smell of. There is something organic about this perfume as it warms on skin, and this gives it a sultry, somewhat carnal quality.

Ambre Eternel ticks many boxes for yours truly. Not only does it highlight again that Wasser is indeed a master of his craft, but it also shows his startling innovation and incredible restraint. Wasser has recognised and demonstrated here that Middle Eastern perfumes need not always shout... rather, they can beckon and haunt; like the stirring song of a whale.

Ambre Eternel is available as a 125ml Eau de Parfum from selected retailers and on

Saturday 13 February 2016

Hermes - 2 new Colognes, 2016

Be on the look out for 2 more scented reveries from the house of Hermès this year!
Eau de Neroli doré and Eau de Rhubarbe écarlate are set to bring some colour and zest to 2016 in true Hermès fashion: a pair of vivacious and bracing tonics that beg to be worn with abandon.
The former, created by in-house nose Jean-Claude Ellena promises vibrant and enveloping freshness, and the latter - the creation of perfumer Christine Nagel, boasts a unique red/green freshness which is both sharp, crisp and mild.

With Eau de Neroli doré, Jean-Claude Ellena's fifth creation in the Cologne family, he has given free expression to the raw materials and to the memories of his Mediterranean youth. Neroli, the essence extracted from orange blossom, named after the 17th century Italian Princess of Nerola, in fact used it to perfume her gloves.

"When I started out in the profession of perfumer", says Jean-Claude Ellena, "I learned to distil raw materials, including orange blossom. When you enter the world of stills, you are immersed in the scent, impregnated with it, you become it. My entire being was fragranced with orange blossom. To reproduce this sensation, where normally one uses very little neroli in fragrances, I used it abundantly, with abandon, as never before".

And to pay tribute to his cherished Mediterranean, to its history, its sunshine and its spices, he enhanced this golden neroli with saffron.

With Eau de rhubarbe écarlate Nagel creates a unique and bold freshness that is more vegetal than citrus. More textured, more marked, it offers a new sensation that reawakens the memory of inhaling the scent of rhubarb in the garden before its picked.

"When you work with rhubarb stalks", explains Nagel, "when you reproduce simple age-old gestures, the scent bursts forth. I have always liked the duality of rhubarb, both visual and olfactory. Its green colour metamorphoses into red. From acidic and crisp, its scent becomes smooth and velvety".

Nagel has sought to amplify certain olfactory traits... she sought a fleshy and delicate rhubarb, exalted to the point of yielding a scent of refined white musk. Brisk and invigorating, the act of spraying it on oneself diffuses freshness, and no more needs to be said. It is self-evident.

The two new colognes will be offered in 200ml, 100ml and 15ml sizes, and will also be introduced as part of the Le Bain d'Hermès line.

For more information, visit

Friday 29 January 2016

N-Cigale sample winner

The winner of the N-Cigale sample draw is M.D - congratulations!
Your name was drawn on as the triumphant one!
You can see the draw here.

Please contact me via the Sorcery of Scent blog or Facebook page with your details so that I can get your prize off to you.

Thank you to those who participated! I strongly urge you to check out the sublime N-Cigale scents and perfume presentations at your earliest convenience - there's so much to love!


Sunday 24 January 2016

N-Cigale - Brief Review + GIVEAWAY

I was fortunate to spend my youth growing up in the emerald embrace of New Zealand... a far-flung Isle with a South Pacific lilt; one whose natural beauty is incomparable to any other country I'd seen before, nor seen since. Our small home used to back on to a national forest... a vast viridian thicket of curling 'punga' palms and countless towering pine trees. On summer days I would venture out with my friends and get lost in it's green. We would throw fallen pine needles scooped by the armful from the forest floor at one another; traipse through shallow creeks looking for eels, harvest hardened pine-sap nuggets from damaged tree trunks, and collect abandoned cicada husks in screw-top glass jars. All around us, the scent of the forest... damp soil, rotting leaf litter, fresh oxygen and the resinous green of pine. We would stay out well into the early evening until after the sun had gone, returning home only when the orchestral chirrup of the cicadas had ended for the day.

Now - some 35 years later - the smell of pine or the song of cicadas will take me straight back there. They are memories I cherish of carefree times, and I feel a life-long affinity with these two things. Cicadas and pine. Imagine my delight then, when I recently discovered N-Cigale, perfumers of Marseille who honour both with their exquisite olfactory creations.

Whilst regarded in many cultures as an insect of royalty, wealth and good fortune, cicadas have become a recurring theme in 'modern' perfumery over the past hundred years; their decorative form reproduced many times in flacons and boxes, particularly during the Art Nouveau age. Roger et Gallet and Molinard have arguably two of the most exquisite interpretations, the former rendered by Rene Lalique

Now, almost one century later, renowned decorative artist/sculptor Patrick Veillet has re-rendered the cicada for a modern age. Gone are the Arts and Crafts ornamental flourishes... instead, Veillet has conjured a stripped-back geometric interpretation that communicates all that is required with just a few lines. Veillet's illustrious career has seen him working with the world's biggest names in fashion and accessories, and he is credited with designing some of the world's most recognisable and beautiful perfume bottles - editions for Thierry Mugler, Gaultier, Chloe, and Alexander McQueen amongst others.... his wealth of experience has finally culminated in the realisation of his own perfume house N-Cigale, of which he stands firmly at the helm. N-Cigale is super chic, edgy and breaking new ground in design, perfumery and the decorative arts. 

To date, N-Cigale's approach to their perfume has been to explore 3 ingredients: fig, pine and lavender - but to elevate them to a whole new space. Frankly, what they have managed to achieve - in my eyes - is nothing short of spectacular. Three notes, each rendered two contradictory ways - one follows a lively, vibrant trajectory, and the other, a darker, unexpected one. These scents are packaged in exquisite lacquered shiny glass cicada flacons - each tinted with a different hue, and each with a stained ash wood cap. And, if these objets d'art weren't desirable enough, the perfumes they hold are truly inspired.

Below, a brief reflection on each fragrance in the N-Cigale collection.

Pin Mystique

The sharp (almost citrus) ecclesiastical perfume of resinous incense stones burnt in swinging censers... a whitewashed Greek church perched high on a pine and cypress-covered hill overlooking a sea of endless blue. A Mediterranean zephyr and the haunting wail of wind in the needles. Austere, yet summery - a sense of solar warmth and dappled shadows under the canopy of a majestic pine. Pin Mystique (Mystical Pine) is a bracing yet comforting olfactory journey - a sense of familiarity and timeless tradition.

Pin des Calanques

A fascinating study whose opening is resolutely citrus and camphor... it veers into a darker orbit with an underlying ribbon of precious woods, violet and husky iris, the sum of which evokes a sense of dwindling light at the end of the day. It is the hour just after sunset where the sky is a sweeping palette of pastel hues that run through the pink/purple/blue spectrum. The perfume of resinous pine remains as the evening wind picks up and sweeps the warmth of the afternoon off into the Aegean. The mosquitoes are out and its time to retreat indoors for a shot of masticha or feijoa vodka. Pin des Calques (Pine of the Creeks) feels devoutly nocturnal.

Figue Fresh

Brimming with a sense of broad, open spaces, Figue Fresh is a diaphanous interpretation of fig that feels somewhat weightless and ethereal. It floats under a sky quilted with clouds that are pregnant with rain. A sense of ozonic wetness and impending lightning. Static in your hair. This is a fig whose sun-soaked warmth is dwindling after a sudden drop in temperature. There's moisture in the air, and only minutes before the deluge begins.

Figue Orientale

An oriental reverie - the perfume of the Syrian souks at sunset - perfumed wooden boxes, sugared rose petals, tanned animal skins, sweet figs steeped in honeyed syrup, and the glint of hammered copper.

Figure Orientale (Oriental Fig) - to my nose - has a slight Middle Eastern slant, reminiscent of the beautiful perfume oils one comes upon when wandering the medinas and bazaars. A darker, more mysterious exploration of fig.

Black Lavender

A nostalgic glance back to a Golden Era - sequinned dresses and fringed hemlines, velvet smoking jackets and black shoes with a mirror-like shine... sheikhs and flappers dancing with abandon in the decorated jazz halls of the Art Deco age. This aromatic lavender is imbued with the smell of heavy mahogany furniture, face powder, floral corsages and a light film of sweat. A genderless, celebratory nod to times past where stuffy airs and graces were abandoned in favour of daring personal indulgences. 

Lavande Velours

Brisk and chilly, Lavande Velours (Velvet Lavender) evokes thoughts of crisp linen tablecloths on tables overlooking the Santorini Caldera... cloudy glasses of ouzo tinkling with ice sipped generously at nightfall. Whilst ever-present, the lavender here is blanched and crisp... almost unrecognisable under a freshly-ironed mantle of green anisic aromats and creamy tonka. The smell of clean skin, rubbed with light natural oils after a cold dip in the Aegean. Light, vivifying and cold.

N-Cigale is a welcome addition to a world rife with niche perfume houses and artisanal producers. Their beautiful boutique in Marseille is testament to Veillet's keen design sensibilities, and their vitrines are immaculately stocked with beauteous flacons, and cicada-shaped porcelain and jewellery. 

For more information, please visit their showroom at:

5 rue de la Prison


You can also find them via their website at or on Facebook and Instagram.


Whilst I'm reluctant to let go of these wonderful samples, I would like to offer them to another reader so that they too might experience N-Cigale
(I am sure with time, that I shall be purchasing full bottles of those scents that have moved me the most)! All six samples have been lightly tested.

To win, just leave a comment in the comments field below, telling me which of the N-Cigale scents intrigues you the most. One winner will be drawn at random on Friday January 29th, and their name published here!

Good luck!