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Les Liquides Imaginaires

Warm Leatherette

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Do you ever wonder why we seem to be drawn almost instinctively to certain perfume notes and not others? I favor leather notes in my perfumes, but not just any leather will do, as I have come to know. Leather can be one of the most debatable and subjective notes in perfumery, and I believe it is always a learned, not a natural association. Leather perfumes can be plastic, animalic, smoky, powdery, gasolinic, rubbery, spicy, or even meaty. My iconic leather perfume might not smell like leather to you at all.

Beauty and the Beasts

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It’s clear that we will soon find ourselves in the midst of another wave of popularity for the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, thanks to an impending Disney film whose trailer was viewed a record-breaking 127.6 million times in the first 24 hours after its release several days ago. But as we all know, the greatest perfumers have been playing beauty against beastliness for a long time.

Amouage Opus X – A Story of Blood, Violins, & Metal

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Slumbering my way down the line of modern Amouage releases, I tripped over Opus X and was jolted awake. Not rose, I thought, but rhubarb and custard sweets, with a green note so acid that it could strip the enamel from my teeth and the protective lining from my tongue. Amazing – superb! A metallic, oxidized rose that will either slit you or crumble away into dried blood flakes.

The convoluted Amouage back story makes sense this time – a 1681 violin maker loses his wife in childbirth, and sobbing, he rubs her blood into the rosin of the violin he is making so as to allow some part of her to live on forever. The story, told in the 1998 film, “Red Violin,” has the violin passing from generation to generation, causing sorrow wherever it goes. KEEP ON READING

Les Liquides Imaginaires Peau de Bête: cuddling with a beast

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Les Liquides Imaginaires is a line very close to my heart, partly because of their visual aesthetics and partly because of their olfactory presence. Presented in simple but evocative bottles, both functional and ritualistic, their scents dwell in an atmosphere of chiaroscuro, with pretty and challenging notes combined artfully. Their latest release, Peau de Bête, translates as “beast’s skin” and that’s exactly the kind of name that reels me in for a sample. Given the name, I was not surprised to find a prominent leather note in the opening. Leather however is a metaphor in perfume language, not an actual ingredient and there are many ways in which someone can imply leather. Here, leather makes a big entrance with the gasoline tinged civet note. I love civet and I always think of it as a confidence builder. The ogre with a heart of gold. It immediately sets a very well defined frame for the fragrance. It sits you down and makes it clear that there is no room for small talk. And this is exactly the way civet acts in Peau de Bête. There is no ambivalence as to what this perfume is about. It is not going to be about walks in the woods and herbs and blossoms. This is a fragrance about humans and their stories, told and untold. Civet is crowned with a fruity cherry and a medicinal saffron and the combination really takes the faecal edge off. There lies exactly the uniqueness of Peau de Bête: although it is a perfume built around civet, it doesn’t focus so much on its animalic origin but rather uses its ability to add a shadow around other notes. It doesn’t try to provoke directly but it aims to invoke introspection. To hint of stories that haunt by remaining untold . And in its development the original gasoline opening quite swiftly fades into a drydown of peppery, woody, creamy but dry sandalwood. This is the phase that made me smile because it cut through ten years of olfactory memories and hundreds of perfume smelled in that period and brought me back to my sample of the original Cumming launched in 2004 by Alan Cumming. This was another perfume that, in great part due to the double entente of the name, promised a debauchery of nasty animalic and human smells. It opened indeed with what I can only described as the smell of overused socks but quickly turned into a similar musty, dry, peppery sandalwood base. KEEP ON READING

Les Liquides Imaginaires: effervescent pleasure

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I first met this brand a couple of years ago in Munich while I was on a business trip which has been etched in my memory as the worst perfume shopping trip experience ever. Don’t get me wrong, there are nice perfume shops in Munich but there is also some weird stuff… Foray no1 was a seemingly nice pharmacy that had some nice classic scents like Knize on display. When I entered I discovered a true fragrance museum where super rare, vintage bottles were on display along with most of the “apothecary” style brands, ointments for sore joints and earplugs. All perfumes were arranged in a religious order, masculines on the right, feminines on the left and on the top top shelf, out of the reach of the pilgrims, vintage bottles of perfumes I have wanted to try for a long time. Rochas Femme, Halston, Jacomo Silences, vintage Vent Vert, all at a tantalising distance. I knew I had no chance at sniffing those as soon as the nonagenarian pharmacist crept from behind a wall in the back, dragging her feet and arched body and inquisitively looking at me above her heavy lensed spectacles. Things started getting really weird when I tried to head off to the feminine side of the pharmacy and she managed to drag her frail body in front of me, waving a forbidding index finger: “Nein, nein! Das ist für Frauen!” (“No, No! These are for women!”). Now I knew how transgender people feel trying to buy their transgender piece of garment…. I tried a couple of times more but every time she managed to muster what seemed to be every last breath in her body to protect the world of perfumes from cross-gender annihilation. KEEP ON READING

Roses Volume V

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Wow, are we at Volume V already? I ain’t finished yet, ladies and gents. I might, however, be getting, if not exactly sick of rose, then a wee bit short-tempered with it. Before this frantic round of testing all the rose samples in my stash (see Volumes I, II, III, and IV), I had been inclined to go easy on rose fragrances when reviewing them, because rose is one of my favorite notes. But now, rose fragrances have to go above and beyond to impress me. Welcome to the tougher, meaner old hag that is now me. You roses have broken me. KEEP ON READING

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