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Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Castaña by Cloon Keen Atelier

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Have you ever felt like you’ve missed the boat on a certain brand or a fragrance? I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling. Given the depressing frequency of botched reformulations and senseless axings, the life of a fragrance enthusiast is often fraught with the fear of missing out or, worse, the agony of knowing that you failed to strike while the iron was hot.

I’m no stranger to missed chances myself. I arrived too late on the perfume scene to scoop up two fragrances that would later become big loves of mine, namely Guerlain’s Vega and Attrape-Coeur. I dithered on Dior Privée Mitzah until it was gone – ditto Eau Noire. I had a bottle of Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’Une Fete, and stupidly sold it; by the time I’d realized my mistake, that too disappeared into the ether, along whatever raw material that made its production impossible. Other bottles carelessly sold or swapped away were Fendi Theorema, a bottle of pre-1950’s Chanel No. 5 extrait, and a large decant of Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit that I missed desperately the minute I’d mailed it off to its lucky recipient. I can almost feel you all wincing out there, so I won’t continue. I’m embarrassed. KEEP ON READING

Al Waad (Promise) by Dominique Ropion for Frederic Malle

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The ad copy for Al Waad (Promise) by perfumer Dominique Ropion for Les Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle reads as follows:

“Frédéric Malle celebrates two precious varieties of rose in the Promise Eau de Parfum.

A harmonious blend of rose essence from Bulgaria and rose absolute from Turkey are lifted by apple, pink pepper and clove, and bound to a sensuous base of patchouli, cypriol and labdanum for a truly unbreakable accord.”

I agree with the “truly unbreakable accord” bit. I sprayed this on at 2pm yesterday and as of 2pm today, Promise is still there. But while one can’t argue with its performance, I’m ambivalent about whether it’s outstayed its welcome on the piece of skin real estate stretching from my right wrist to inner elbow. KEEP ON READING

Summers in Paris: Creed’s Original Vetiver

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Of all my summer fragrances, only one takes me straight to France. The whimsical, white columns and sculptures of Paris are only done justice by sartorial elegance with a bit of flair, which is exactly what Creed does best. Look no further than Creed’s Original Vetiver, which (contrary to popular opinion) is both heavy on the vetiver and quite original.

Based solely on the opening, Original Vetiver does smell similar to Mugler’s Cologne, a fragrance that is sometimes heralded as the “original” Original Vetiver merely because it was released a few years earlier. But while there is a similarity of style and genre, these fragrances are quite different. Original Vetiver is significantly more expensive, but is worth the premium if you like the style. Where Mugler Cologne is extremely heavy on the musks and fresh citruses/neroli, Original Vetiver has more complexity since it incorporates several textures at once. KEEP ON READING

Arabian Nights: Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Oud

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The evocative power of fragrance is known to everyone who reads this blog. Upon the first whiff, one will think (fondly or otherwise) of a friend, a place, a moment in time, a favored sweater, or even a song. But Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Oud is one of the only fragrances that has made me immediately think of a book. That book is the classic (love it or hate it) 1001 Arabian Nights.

Does Kurkdjian’s fragrance have oud? Yes. Saffron and exotic spice? Of course, even that. Read a description of this fragrance and you will find ingredients that might combine to produce something typical. But lest we get carried away and assume the authenticity of Kurkdjian’s interpretation of oud, we should remember that Kurkdjian embraces a distinctly European style of perfumery: Quality musks, buoyant new synthetics, and a certain wearable freshness are hallmarks of Kurkdjian’s style, blended to perfection as only a master perfumer could achieve. Kurkdjian’s Oud is not a traditional oud. This is not even something like, say, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle’s attempt at authentic oud with a European medium, as its fragrance “The Night” managed to achieve. Nope. This is something new, yet old. European, but also distinctly Arabian. KEEP ON READING

Le Galion Sortilège: but this is Marilyn!

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The day has come to say what I never thought I will: I love aldehydes! And I ain’t talking about the delicious C-14, the one with an almost lactonic peach skin vibe which gives Mitsouko its lit-from-within glow, although I love that one too, in fact I loved it from the get go. I’m talking about the fatty, waxy, fizzy, soapy brigade: C10, C11 and C12 which are used abundantly in fragrances like Chanel no. 5, Chanel no. 22 and practically any other perfume that smells as if you’re drinking a glass of Moët while you’re soaking in a big, white porcelain bathtub filled to the brim with the bubbles of the finest, most expensive soaps money can possibly buy. KEEP ON READING

On the doorstep of December

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I think I’m allowed to use the C word now, aren’t I?
I woke up this morning to a frosting of white on the leaves and grass, and friends in the Alps have been posting pictures of snow on the mountains. It’s cold and clear, with starry nights and bluebird days that merit a scarf and gloves. It’s time to pull out the special fragrances that work best at this time of year.

My hand reached into my perfume cupboard for Serge Lutens Arabie, a perfume I only wear around Christmas, but I was shocked to be unable to find it. (Sadly I have begun to succumb to putting things ‘somewhere safe’ – so safe you can’t find them.) This is infuriating, as I am now stuck with a yearning for the Christmas-pudding richness of Arabie. Stuffed with spices and dried fruits, this is a truly seasonal fragrance that I can’t imagine being able to wear in summer’s heat. In winter though, its richness is warming and mouthwatering, and just thinking about it makes me want to hit the kitchen and start baking hyper-rich fruitcake and pudding, with some mince pies for added yum. I think it may be ‘stir up Sunday’ this week, and we’ll put all the flavours of Arabie into our Christmas cake – candied mandarin peel, dried dates, sultanas and raisins, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla; all that will be missing is rich resins and woods – cedar, sandalwood, myrrh and benzoin. KEEP ON READING

Diorama (1948) and the Love of Vintage Dior Perfumes

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Although buying vintage bottles can be a perilous exercise, vintage perfumes are my comfort zone. I wear many beautiful current perfumes and I always like to explore new releases, but once you develop a taste for certain now restricted ingredients found in vintage perfumes such as eugenol, nitromusks, civet, and oakmoss, newer perfumes will always smell different to you. Some will be just as good as your beloved vintages, but they will always have a different character.

Al Kimiya’s Aurum: Glitter and Gold

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The Al Kimiya (Kemi Blending Magic) line is another magnificent collection from Sergio Momo, the genius behind such titanic collections as Xerjoff, Casamoratti, and Sospiro. The first two I’ve experienced from the line (Aurum and Aqua Regia) are both gorgeous, and truly manage to capture the collection’s theme. With these beautiful compositions, the perfumers have captured the essence of “alchemy”, the mystical art of transforming the simple into the extraordinary.

The opening of Aurum is a blast of strawberry and tart citrus. Both of these elements remain for almost the entire duration of the fragrance and are tempered only by a crystal clear jammy rose and sweet heliotrope. Incense is present in the notes, but is not a major player on my skin. The composition rests on a green, oily base of patchouli and dark chocolate, all drizzled with the “warm skin” effect that is brought by labdanum. Unlike many fragrances of this style, the ingredients smell worthy of the price. KEEP ON READING

Chanel’s Boy: Feminine Fougere

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The Les Exclusifs de Chanel collection is known for its groundbreaking fragrances that are as elegant as they are alluring. From the captivating Sycomore to the avant-garde Cuir de Russe, the simple Eau de Cologne to the scrumptious Coromandel, the quality of Chanel’s exclusives is unimpeachable. That is, until Boy.

Before its floral mid and vanillic base, Boy opens with an uncomfortably synthetic explosion of notes. For me, the first minute or two is a sinus-searing mashup of what smells like chemical-laden citruses and fixatives. Present in the opening is nearly the same cringe-worthy grapefruit note that is present at the opening of Bleu de Chanel. Sadly, the first few minutes always smell a bit cheap to my nose, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it is the ingredient quality, the overall blend, or the perfumer’s particular style, but this fragrance does not belong in the exclusives range, smelling instead like a cross between a Chanel flanker and a Balenciaga fragrance. On that note, if this were a kind of modernized “fougere flanker” of Chanel No. 5, I doubt that anyone would be surprised. For what you get with Chanel Boy, many might agree that the significantly smaller price tag of the normal collection would more appropriate. Still, Boy is very pleasant, and I highly doubt that it will be a widely disliked fragrance. Performance is mediocre in all categories. KEEP ON READING

Everything is Orange: The Best Orange Fragrances for Men

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Orange and its derivatives are some of the most popular notes in all of perfumery. Depending on how they are presented and what portions of the tree are used (orange, orange blossom, neroli, and petitgrain are all derivatives of the orange tree), orange-based fragrances often come across as uplifting and clean. After testing a large portion of the niche market, here are some of my picks of the best orange-based fragrances for men:

Tom Ford Neroli Portofino: Neroli Portofino is on many of my top lists for a good reason. This is the epitome of the fresh neroli fragrances and is a classic cologne that actually lasts, especially in the heat of the summer. Mixing soapy oceanic accords with neroli, Neroli Portofino straddles the gap between a classical cologne and modern aquatic. Two flankers – Acqua and Forte – were recently released, and while the Acqua is totally forgettable and fleeting, the Forte would be nice for folks who would prefer a less soapy version of the original with added leather. KEEP ON READING

Amouage Opus III: chasing the light

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Finally we had some beautiful, sunny days on this bit of earth facing the Atlantic ocean. Such days are few and far in between and they are celebrated with all the panache of colourful flip flops, Hawaiian shirts and cotton Bermudas revealing skin so white, it’s almost translucent. And despite the sharp breeze still giving everyone goosebumps, we try really hard to convince ourselves that, yes, the elusive creature called Spring, or even the other more sacred monster called Summer, has eventually graced our shores. Alas, despite the fervency, the blind belief, the masses of people spread on the park’s green lawns, I can’t buy into it. This is not Summer. Hell, is not even Spring. I know Spring when I see it, and mostly when I feel it, with my skin, my nose, the tip of my fingers and my tongue, because yes I used to lick dew off lilacs when I was young and I still feel an irresistible urge to inhale and taste every rain kissed flower I see. Oh, those gentle late Spring showers, lasting just enough to underline the beauty all around, how I miss them! And how I miss the warmth, that lazy, langurous warmth, so indolent, so relaxed, like a cat stretching on her back showing a fluffy belly and half closed slanted eyes. To know that heat and sun weren’t going to suddenly disappear, that they’ll be there the next day, and the day after that and so on, like a trusted, loyal friend, well, what can I say? It was pure bliss. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fierce, terrible beauty of Ireland with its rugged coastlines, sweeping winds over the evergreen fields, grey, foaming sea and laden skies. This beauty has made a lily-white Celtic warrior out of me, just like the rest. But inside my soft, yielding heart the rounded, sensuous, mellow Spring of my homeland lives on, brewing gently inside this nostalgic feeling I can never really shake off. KEEP ON READING

Spring has Sprung: Linden and Lilacs

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For many people who like heady, strong florals – rose, tuberose, violets – linden and lilacs can seem like the “other white meat”, in other words, second-string players to more forceful or more characterful stars. Ask any one to describe what a Bulgarian rose otto smells like, or tuberose absolute, and words such as beefy, rich, and buttery come spilling out; strong words for strong scents. Flowers like lilac, linden, and to a certain extent, freesia, and peony cannot be so clearly described – people tend to use vague terms such as fresh, green, watery, honeyed, or soapy. KEEP ON READING

L’Attesa by Masque: Wait Up – This is Great

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It is fair to say that Luca Turin’s decision to start writing about perfumes again – and specifically perfumes he loves – in his new WordPress blog, has sent a gust of fresh air through the dusty halls of perfume reviewing. Everyone’s ears are pricked, wondering whom Luca is going to shine his avuncular love on next. For niche brands, it must be utterly nerve-wracking – they’ve all either sent him samples or cornered him at Esxence – and now they must wait for Turinesque rapture….or worse, total radio silence. KEEP ON READING

The Different Company I miss Violet: sappy rapture

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I’m having a violet fixation. And an iris one. And it’s only getting worse. As time goes by, rich, powdery, wet-earthy fragrances centred around flowers like violet, iris, mimosa, osmanthus and any other ones with a vaguely leathery, animalic facet are the only ones I feel like buying. It all started with Une Fleur de Cassie, a shameless mimosa, continuing with Iris Silver Mist, iris as an artistic statement, Dans tes Bras the weirdo violet, L’Heure Bleue an unforgettable classic, Infusion d’Iris Absolue so refined, so posh, Dzongkha the weirdo iris, a blind buy of Opus III prompted by Claire’s review on her blog Take One Thing Off (crossing my fingers and toes for that one), and now The Different Company I miss Violet. And in spite of having Dans tes bras, which to me is like Après l’Ondée with Christmas lights on and spaceship technology, guess what: I want to have Après l’Ondée too, even if it lasts about half an hour at most. But I’ve long given up staring at the bottomless pit of my perfume hobby insanity and trying to do something about it, so let’s move on. So far I’ve given you a long list of iris, violet, mimosa themed things and the list could be longer still. Maybe not when it comes to mimosa, but iris and violet combos in various permutations have been done to death. It is a crowded field, and making one more seems like almost counterintuitive but The Different Company I miss Violet is to me the missing link between the neon lit flirtatious femininity of the lipsticked gang of iris-violets and the earthy, more plaintive and naturalistic band of the hippie chic violets. By bridging this apparently opposite styles I miss Violet becomes the happiest bohemian violet I’ve ever had my nose on. Created by Bertrand Duchaufour for “La Collection Excessive” I miss Violet is marketed as a floral-leather, but in my view the leather aspect is negligible, in the form of a slightly sueded, velvety finish, most apparent in the base. The true showstopper is the complex, indeed excessive, floral accord which marries sweet-powdery effects with a green apple crunch, a kind of shimmering aldehydic fizz and something which resembles vegetal sap, or how I imagine this to smell like: watery, green, fruity sweet and a little bit salty at the same time. Osmanthus, with its edible, delicious nuances of apricot jam is also coming through very strongly alongside a beautiful mimosa note. The whole things smells absolutely vibrant, alive with a glowing splendor. It is sophisticated and coquettish, reminding me of lipstick, powder and silky dresses but it goes way beyond that, into real joy territory, into living the moment with absolute intensity. With I miss Violet you don’t have to choose: you can have both ditzy, perhaps a touch vacuous prettiness and wild, rebellious abandon: like rolling on damp earth, laughing, crushing under your body delicate purple flowers, ripe fruits, sappy stems and blades of grass while wearing the softest, most luxurious suede frock and a face full of make-up. But you don’t care anymore: smeared lipstick, stained dress, messy hair what difference does it make when for the first time in years you’re able to experience again all-conquering, innocent, delirious glee. This is what I feel when wearing I miss Violet and I don’t give a damn about the fact it wears close to skin after the first, explosive half an hour. I’d give what I paid for my bottle and more to do pirouettes again and again surrounded by clouds of sweet powders in the nacre colours of an Abalone shell. KEEP ON READING

Iris Quest: Denouement

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For the fourth and final installment of in my Iris Quest (see Parts I, II, and III here), I’m focusing on all the iris fragrances that I (a) either forgot to include the first time round, (b) features iris not as the main player but as one important element in a larger whole – iris as part of an incense, woody, or oriental composition, and/or (c) features iris in the role of cosmetic or lipstick-style scents.

Let’s begin with an absolute heart-breaker….the amazing and utterly unaffordable Irisss by Xerjoff. KEEP ON READING

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