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Balmain

Sheep ruh

in Reviews by

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run.

I can never see the first changing colours in the hedgerows without Keats’ poem coming to mind. As I drove to work today through the English countryside, I saw a blush on a beech and a flame on a poplar, as the mists rose off the river Wye. The time has come to put away the coconut, tiare, white flowers and aquatic accords and get sheepish. OK, I mean chyprish, but allow me the pun. KEEP ON READING

A Green Thought in a Green Shade

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It’s early summer, and everything around me seems to be vibrating in intense shades of my favorite color. And while I know that some of us are suffering in parching heat, where I live we have been fortunate to have warm but not extreme temperatures, punctuated by brief inundations of summer rain, making all of the plants and trees--and me--very, very happy indeed. So this is the time to wear my favorite green perfumes, and luckily we are experiencing a resurgence of green notes in perfumery so there are some new ones to explore.

Heart of Glass

in Reviews by

I set off to college in 1979 without a single bottle of perfume, if my memory doesn't deceive me. I wish I had known about Jean-Louis Scherrer's first perfume then. I am convinced that my years of youthful exploration and occasional indiscretion would have been even more fun if I had been wearing this perfume. I make up for it by wearing it as often as I can now.

My fragrance of 2016 – Salome

in Reviews by

I have often been heard lamenting the demise of many great old perfumes due to IFRA regulations on the ingredients perfumers can now use. My beloved Miss Balmain is no longer produced, so I guard my stash of vintage eau de parfum like Gollum with his precioussss. For a while, I turned my back on modern releases, believing that nobody could match my vintage beauties for sophistication and polish.

I’m hip to modern ideas about a banging vetiver or an overdosed ISO-E Super frag; and I can and do enjoy wearing startling new scents that conjure environments or occasions. I will happily wear an oudh that takes me straight to a soukh where hard-tanned leather is sold, or a fragrance such as Dzing! that somehow puts me straight into a horse’s stable. But truthfully, I like the mystery of composed, complicated perfumes like those of yesteryear. I like not knowing what makes Madame Rochas smell so off-kilter and interesting (strange aldehydes that add a ‘just snuffed candle’ note, according to Luca Turin), or which flowers are in my beloved Miss Balmain (carnations apparently, which explains a lot). For me, a great deal of the perfumer’s art is in creating something unknowable but beautiful that creates an emotion in me, melds with my memories and becomes part of my skin. KEEP ON READING

Sammarco Naias – Deconstructing Violet

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When I heard that Giovanni Sammarco had shown mods of a yet-to-be-announced violet perfume called Naias at Pitti to a couple of friends, I began to salivate. Then, after wiping the drool from my keyboard, I asked for a sample. (More likely, I begged).

For the past year or so, violets have been a sort of secret passion of mine, and I’ve been collecting samples and even small bottles of some of what I see as the standouts in the genre. Opus III for a grand, oriental violet, Stephen Jones for weird crunchy space rocks, vintage Jolie Madame for leather, Insolence for trashy charm, Aimez Moi for kittenish cheer, Bois de Violette for candied darkness, and McQueen for grungy face powder. But each violet added to the collection shrinks the space left for others – could Naias really bring something new to the table? KEEP ON READING

Balmain Vent Vert 1991 and 1999 formulations: the question of sameness

in Reviews/Thoughts by

balmain-vent-vert-from-memoryofscent

It seems that times are changing. Green fragrances were the undisputed kings of the 70’s. They were here long before that but their popularity hit an all time high in the 70’s. Estée Lauder Aliage, Givenchy III, Jacomo Silences, Jean Couturier Corriandre, just to name a few of the fragrances released around that time,  that were not only poignantly interesting but also hugely popular. Then the 80’s happened and as much as they brought a new exciting era for fragrances, they also brought an exuberance that made the self-controlled, self-sufficient gems of the previous decade seem out of place, outdated. The 80’s were all about being noticed and big flowers, spices and oriental notes get you there much faster. Balmain Vent Vert, one of the most well known representatives of the green genre, was born in 1947, an offspring to Germaine Cellier and the optimism of the post-war era. Germaine Cellier was a visionary perfumer who loved green fragrances. She facilitated one of the strangest unions in fragrance history by marrying Leather Master with Green Witch, in Robert Piguet Bandit, and in 1947 she unleashed the original version of Vent Vert which some credit as the first unabashedly green perfume. Unfortunately I have yet to sample a well preserved sample of that original formulation but a few months ago I found a modestly priced bottle of the 1999 formulation of Vent Vert by Nathalie Feisthauer: I knew that I wasn’t getting the real deal – after all Luca Turin holds Nathalie Feisthauer responsible for “defacing” the original idea – but I love anything green and I had to give this a try. After all how different can it be? And the bottle looks so cute, with that spherical cap, the lovechild of a thimble and a golf ball. Then a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to get my hands on a bottle of the 1991 formulation by Calice Becker, one that is still considered as acceptable in comparison to the green dragon of the 1945 initial release. KEEP ON READING

Harmony and Me–We’re Pretty Good Company

in Reviews by

Parisian Niche House The Harmonist Opens Doors in Feng Shui-Compliant Los Angeles

It was with some trepidation—and excitement—that I entered the beautiful Los Angeles boutique of The Harmonist, a Paris-based niche perfume house using the ancient Asian concept of Feng Shui as its creative brief.  I mean, I am a middle-aged Aries with a penchant for powerhouse masculines and an inability to tolerate Bikram yoga—just how harmonious am I going to get?

The boutique is in trendy Melrose Place (the only other location besides their Avenue George V flagship) and is truly beautiful.  Sleek, pared down luxury completely realized in black and white (the Yin and Yang about which much more is to come) only relieved by the green of counter tops in precious malachite and plants growing in hanging glass terraria.  The Paris-trained staff, led by the amiable and knowledgeable Erasmo and Bobbi (also in pared down, luxurious black and white attire), patiently take you through the complex, yet simple, inspiring world that is The Harmonist. KEEP ON READING

GREEN!

in Reviews by

It’s no secret to my best fraggy friends that this year I’ve been on a particular perfume quest…..

……The Quest For GREEN

Everyone has certain notes and accords that resonate and add ‘flavour’ to the whole olfactory experience. Some like their patchoulis, roses, ambers, smokeys, etc etc.   Others are partial to categories such orientals, soliflores, chypres, floral, aromatics. What about colour? There are no ‘reds’, no ‘purples’, no ‘blues’ in perfumery (yet!), but there are mos def greens. And I love ‘em. KEEP ON READING

Cuir d’Ange: The Skin of Angels

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All exclusive lines need a good leather on which to hang their hat. The Chanel Les Esclusifs have their famous Cuir de Russie, the Dior Privee their Cuir Cannage, and now Hermessence by Hermes have theirs: Cuir d’Ange. Cuir d’Ange, meaning Angel Skin, is the tenth, and probably Jean-Claude Ellena’s last contribution to the exclusive Hermessence line by Hermes.

And, wow, it’s a good one.

It’s a delicate, translucent leather consisting of a series of cool grey and blue notes – violet, hawthorn, heliotrope, maybe some unlisted iris – all daubed on as if in a watercolor. There is something cool and hollowed-out about the leather, as if a note of air or water has been floated up through the scent. It feels somehow anisic or salty. I would even go so far as to say vegetal or savory, rather than sweet. This could be the violet, although it smells like no other violet I’ve ever smelled before. Personally, I think violet has a tendency to ride roughshod over every other note in a composition, and therefore, to see such a denatured, subtle, almost salted version of the note here is both a surprise and a pleasure. KEEP ON READING

Black Saffron: Fruit Leather with Volume Control Problems

in Reviews by

Black Saffron by Byredo

Black Saffron is not what I expected at all. In fact, when my nose was hit with a burst of fruit syrup notes, I had to check the box that my sample came in twice. Yep – the words “black” and “saffron” were definitely there. But before I even had a chance to reach up to scratch my head in puzzlement, the scent did a crazy volte face. What I smelled was….. wood shavings in a heated, covered horse-riding arena. How odd! This eventually settled into a fine dusting of sawdust that coated the main accord of the scent – fruity violet leather – giving the entire fragrance an unusual kind of musky, ashy “mouthfeel”. Although I assume the dustiness is due to the saffron, I was unable to detect any of that spice’s usual medicinal aspects. In fact, despite the presence of both saffron and juniper berries, I was unable to pick up much spiciness at all. Here, they seem to manifest themselves more as a textural component (ash, dust) than as a flavoring agent. KEEP ON READING

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