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Guerlain

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

Wear a leather jacket

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It’s getting chillier and after my last post about Chypres, I started thinking about other categories of fragrance that might be good at this time of year. It’s the perfect time of year to re-organise your cupboards for a new season and bring out the leather.

Leather fragrances, like chypres, hark back to the age of glamour and romance, summed up by the classic movies of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Can’t you picture Cary Grant or Kathryn Hepburn wise-cracking and arching an eyebrow sardonically while wearing crisp tailoring and smelling elegantly of leather with a faint hint of roses or sandalwood? KEEP ON READING

Summers in Paris: Creed’s Original Vetiver

in Reviews/Thoughts by

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

Sheep ruh

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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

Bogue Profumo MEM – an exuberant, passionate, sexy hot mess

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Ever since Aimee Guerlain decided in 1889 that lavender and a whiff of unwashed bottom would make a good pairing in Jicky, nobody has dared making lavender truly sexy again, with the possible exception of Vero Kern in her Kiki Eau de parfum which marries lavender to a scrumptious, creamy caramel note and the fizzy sulphurous tinge of passion fruit. Yet where Kiki is flirtatious, Jicky is unapologetically animal and so Jicky is still leading the sexy race more than 120 years since its inception. But enter Bogue Profumo MEM and we might be talking a serious contender to the sexy lavender crown. One a lot more flamboyant and exciting than Monsieur/Madame Jicky and somehow, in spite of its vintage nods especially in the base where things get classically musky and animalic, one that is perhaps better suited to modern tastes. Don’t let that ring the alarm bells, making you thing that MEM is one those anorexic, easily legible, usually soliflore type fragrances that ladies who lunch like to buy from their shiny, luxurious department stores. No, MEM is big, complex to the point of insanity and completely baffling. But it also smells new and original, which Jicky with its dirty vanilla powder and French boudoir vibe doesn’t anymore. I don’t know why perfumer Antonio Gardoni picked lavender as his next “knock-them-dead-and-drag-them-to-the-love-making-den” type of fragrance as we all know lavender isn’t exactly carnal pleasures material but he probably loves a challenge as most of us do from time to time. I also don’t know what particularly was his inspiration for creating this scent. Did he simply want to showcase the multifaceted beauty of plain ol’ humble lavender? Did he have a certain lavender related memory he wanted to translate into scent? Maybe MEM equals memory, who knows? I’ve never tried to find out. Sometimes I like to leave mystery alone. Lucian Blaga, a Romanian poet said “I do not crush the world’s wonders corolla, nor do I kill with reason the mystery I meet in flowers, in eyes, on lips, in graves.” Life and creation are mysteries which probably are never going to be fully deciphered and so is MEM to my nose. I can hardly grasp what is going on inside it. One thing is for certain, there’s lots going on. I mean let’s all take a look at the notes list: petitgrain, mandarin, grapefruit, lavender (several types), ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, white champaca, rose damascene, jasmine grandiflorum, bourbon geranium, vanilla, peppermint, laurel, siam benzoin, rosewood, sandalwood, Himalayan cedarwood, labdanum, ambergris, musk, castoreum, civet, amber. Enough to get your head spinning before you even take a sniff. At a first glance it looks like a chypre structure: bright, juicy citrus-aromatic beginning, voluptuous, rounded floral heart and a woodsy-animalistic base. But when you actually spray the perfume almost nothing is recognisable anymore. All the components are sort of skewed into a novel direction, a very peculiar kind of smell, although not exactly abstract either. In fact, the sense of modernity comes from the very naturalistic first impression, something which would appeal to the current customers who are always impressed by terms like pure, wholesome, unprocessed, organic. MEM was a completely blind buy for me, inspired by Claire Vukcevic’s brilliant and mouth watering short review on her blog Take one thing off. So when the bottle arrived I’m sure you can imagine the trepidation with which I pressed the spray nozzle. Mouth agape, sensations were flooding my brain in rapid succession and it was difficult to keep track. MEM starts with a citrus blast but not as you know it. This is so amped up it almost smells like a petrol station, and the lavender wave, leaves, earth and roots included, follows like a ferrocious purple tsunami. Funk is never too far away in Antonio Gardoni’s creations and for the briefest of time I can smell something somewhat bleachy metallic the kind of thing I tend to always associate with ambergris and semen. So there’s a powerful male impression at this point, but very soon the fragrance softens with a very interesting sweetness which is not vanilla or honey type but rather like malt molasses. The mix of lavender, malty sweetness, and a dry, waxed, rubbery type of floralcy gives birth to a very strange animal indeed : lavender beer. To me it feels like I’m taking a bath with my lover, in one of those free standing big tubs filled to the brim with fancy craft beer, lavender bunches and exotic flowers. It’s propped right in the middle of a half wild garden and the sun is almost falling down towards the sunset line. Huge cabbage head roses are trembling over the heavy porcelain rim and his beautiful eyes are hoovering above me like two blue-green moons. We laugh relentlessly, we touch and we lick, and it’s as if we’re lost in an alternate world, never to be found again. It’s surreal and amazing and I don’t want for this dream to end. And it doesn’t because MEM lasts forever and a day if you let it. The progression is extremely slow after the fast moving beginning, and all the better for it. That means I can enjoy the crazy lavender beer stage for hours on end, before the musky, sweetly animalic base takes over with its leathery castoreum inflections and snuggly amber. KEEP ON READING

Black Gold by Ormonde Jayne

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In my journey through the world of fragrance, I’ve found it easy to ignore Ormonde Jayne, its quiet English classicism at odds with my quest for the strange and the shocking. There’s a certain arrogance that goes along with huffing extreme fragrances such as M/Mink, Patchouli 24, or Mazzolari Lui and living to tell the tale – a little like Johnny Knoxville, happy to have his balls smacked with a plank as long as there was video evidence to replay later.

But friends, to do that too long is to underestimate the sheer comfort of things that are beautiful or classically built. The things that made me overlook Ormonde Jayne fragrances the first time around – their subtlety, their easy grace, their quietness – are exactly the things that make me appreciate them now. KEEP ON READING

It all began in the blue hour.

in Reviews by

I always liked perfume, but I wasn’t fascinated by it. Until, that is, I went on holiday to France eleven years ago, taking with me a book called The Emperor of Scent, which I’d picked up in the SciFi section for casual reading. It turned out to be real science, not fiction: the story of a talented biophysicist called Luca Turin who was researching how we smell things. It was a fascinating read, but what really inspired my imagination was Luca Turin’s comments on perfumes and the perfume industry. KEEP ON READING

Lavender’s having a moment

in Reviews by

Apparently lavender has a reputation as being for old ladies, but I’ve never felt that way about it. To me, its fresh, uplifting brightness is incredibly modern. I’m not alone, it seems, as lavender is having its moment in the sun this summer. (It was all about the gardenia a couple of years ago, remember?) With a movement towards bright, light, yet very radiant perfumes, lavender has a place front and centre in the perfumer’s palette these days. Indeed, perfume creator Antonio Gardoni of Bogue Profumo has been working on his next fragrance and lavender is a key element: more on that in a later post, but he’s promised me a sample to test and I’ll keep you posted. KEEP ON READING

Aftelier Parfums: an exploration of natural luxury – part two

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As promised a while ago I’m returning with a few more impressions about a couple of Aftelier perfumes I tested. I know, it has taken me a long time. Perfume writing tends to be a slow and laborious process for me lately. I rarely seem to be able to get a peaceful hour just to sniff and think happy, beautiful thoughts. Today is about roses and vanilla and the third part will be about sex and decay. And if you want to read the first part (about meditation and elegance) you can find it here.

Wild Roses KEEP ON READING

My fragrance of 2016 – Salome

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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

Relationships teach us a lot

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Both the relationships between fragrances and those with friends can teach us a lot, as I found out this last week. I mentioned before the joys of having like-minded perfumisters and perfumsistas to chat to about this obsession with Obsession and craving for Chaos. This month one of mine tipped me off to a delicacy I simply had to try: Mauboussin de Mauboussin.

I made a small financial investment (very small – this is not expensive) and the three-sided pyramidal bottle is now on my dresser. My friend Pia from Olfiction  had been the catalyst for this, as she felt there was a similarity between Mauboussin and Femme de Rochas, a classic plum and leather chypre. I have a great fondness for chypres, and leather ones in particular, treasuring my tiny bottle of vintage Femme extrait. Even though the top notes of my bottle are starting to ‘turn’ to the burnt, hairspray-like sharpness of damage, the heart and base are still beautiful and I have vowed to wear this rapidly-fading beauty as much as possible while it still glows like a plum-coloured lantern. KEEP ON READING

Finding a Signature Cologne – Method or Madness?

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methodmadness

Convinced that I was in desperate need of a ‘signature scent cologne’, something that I could grab at a moment’s notice when professional responsibilities required that I enter other person’s ‘scent circles’, I decided that rather than make a choice in the way I normally would – visit my local supplier and be overwhelmed by the typical perfume prose and return home with bottles that I didn’t really like – which were perceived differently on paper than on my skin or did not fit my personal style –  in short, buying ‘dumb’ as opposed to what I often do – ‘buying blind’ (another one of my perpetual weaknesses, but that is another story), I decided to introduce two principles that might help me make a more objective decision. KEEP ON READING

Tea with (smelly) friends

in Thoughts by

Two weekends ago I went to London with a good friend I’ve known since I was in my 20s – that’s her in the photo with me – Sam who writes the I Scent You A Day blog. We went to hang out and drink tea with a group of perhaps twenty people, many of whom we hadn’t physically met before. What did we have in common? Perfume. How did we know these people? The internet.

Now some people get upset when I refer to them as Smelly Friends, so I may need to use some other terminology, such as Fragonerds, Perfumistas and Perfumisters, or just fragrance afficionados, but it all boils down to the same thing. We are people who love perfume. You, dear reader, may very well be one too. 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

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