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Rochas

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

All that glisters

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This is an historic day: the 45th President of the United States of America is being sworn in. I shan’t open political debate, but I will say that this has been a controversial election unlike any other in modern memory, and it’s provoking a lot of reaction. Knowing that I would be reviewing today I considered my choice very carefully.

As Voltaire said: ‘I have decided to be happy because it is good for my health’. I’m going to rise above flippancy, fatalism or bragadoccio and consider what to wear on A Very Big Day. When I looked in my perfume cupboard (yes, a whole cupboard, I am obsessed) I could set aside whole categories of fragrance: eau de colognes, citruses, gourmands and greens can all stay home. For the truly grand occasion I break out the big guns: orientals and chypres. My choice for today is something that I think of as a classic oriental as it has the elegant chic of a classic chypre coupled with the rich spicy presence of an oriental: Amouage Gold pour Femme. 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

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.

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

When the Whip Comes Down

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Perfumery has long had a (sometimes prurient) fascination with flagellation.  Fragrances with names like Coup de Fouet (Caron), Cravache (Robert Piguet), and Riding Crop (Demeter) all suggest the menacing danger and pain of the lash.  There are no less than three called whip—Whip (Black Phoenix Alchemy), Whips and Roses (Kerosene) and Whip (Le Galion).

The act of whipping evokes images of cruelty: slavery, abuse and sadism.  From Jesus Christ to Kunta Kinte the whip has inflicted punishment.  Pleasure, too, is associated with its sting, as illustrated by the character of Séverine in Luis Buñuel’s 1967 film Belle de Jour.  The riding crop—a whip in miniature—has been wielded by villains and equestrians in equal measure and in fact is used in advertisements for Guerlain’s Habit Rouge. KEEP ON READING

Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Noire Épices : the cold oriental

in Reviews by

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If you ask me how I ended up with a big bottle of Noir Épices in my perfume wardrobe, I couldn’t give you a straight answer. Of course, I haven’t lost my mind, I do know from the logistics’ point of view, HOW it happened, but I’m not entire sure WHY it happened. Because you see, Noir Épices it’s so removed in style and feeling from what I naturally gravitate towards, that it may be well possible that my mind is not in its usual place anymore. This perfume wasn’t on my radar at all for a very long time, but once it came into focus it stayed there. It grabbed me, not at a gut level, it was more of an intellectual fascination rather than the sensual-emotional connection I generally have with my fragrances. Noir Épices was different, and certainly very different from the image I had of it in my head, which was partially prompted by an old Frédéric Malle promotional photo, this one underneath: KEEP ON READING

Diorella – Edmond the Great’s Magnum Opus

in Reviews by
Truth & Knowledge : Once Upon a Transcendent Realm ~ James Martinez

Edmund Roudnitska is my favourite nose of all time. He managed, in his long career, to create fragrances that not only smelled great but always had something important to say. And when it comes to any art, that should be the defining criteria of: it’s got something to say. From his first effort Rochas Femme in 1942 to his swansong Ocean Rain in 1990, and everything in between, Roudnitska managed to bend the natural and newly emerging synthetics to his formidable creative will, all bearing his indelible signature. KEEP ON READING

Oud Satin Mood by Maison Francis Kurkdijan: A Middle Eastern Sweet

in Reviews/Thoughts by
White rose esti- / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Oud Satin Mood by Maison Francis Kurkdijan is a big, fat Middle Eastern sweet, the kind that is doused in rose syrup, thickened with salep, aromatized with mastic, sprinkled with rosewater and pistachios, and then, finally, dusted with a thick layer or five of powdered sugar so thick your teeth leaves indents in it.

Which means, of course, that I love it.

How could I not? I live in a country so thoroughly marked by a Turkish occupation in the late 1500s that every second word in the food vocabulary is Turkish. And since Turkish cuisine is influenced also by high Persian cuisine, we have quite a few Persian woods for food too. Lokum (Turkish delight), halva, tulumba (fried cakes doused in honey syrup), baklava, sutlias (rice pudding) and many, many others – well, you get the picture. KEEP ON READING

Immortelle Beloved: My Top Four Immortelle Fragrances

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Immortelle Tree Quinten Questel / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Etat Libre d’Orange Afternoon of a Faun: Afternoon of a Faun muscles its way into the green chypre category with an overall vibe halfway between a drenched forest and a bowl full of crushed iris roots. It’s described as an aromatic, spicy scent on Fragrantica, but actually, it comes off as a scorched-earth chypre. It shouldn’t work. But the contrast of wet, bitter green iris and the dry woods is all kinds of addictive.

I love the way it takes me on a ride every time I put it on. It reminds me somewhat of a vintage No. 19 pure parfum I had from the 1950’s which had turned badly – it shares something of that singed woods and burned coffee smell the parfum had. But in contrast, Afternoon of a Faun smells really good to me. KEEP ON READING

My Favorite Fruity Florals

in Reviews/Thoughts by

Maybe it’s old age creeping up on me, but I’m beginning to appreciate fruit-heavy fragrances in a way I have never done before. Key to unlocking a whole category that you’ve previously dismissed is, of course, finding one example of its form that steals your heart before you even know what’s happening – for me, that fragrance was Robert Piguet’s Visa. I ordered a sample of it as something as an afterthought (I was exploring the house of Piguet and didn’t want to leave one off the list), and let is sit in my sample box for over a year before finally trying it out in a fit of boredom one night. KEEP ON READING

Une Rose by Frederic Malle: Too Much Rose

in Reviews by
Une Rose by Frederic Malle


Une Rose by Frederic Malle

I have a confession to make, and I fear that my perfumista card is just about to be revoked, but here it is: I don’t like Frederic Malle’s Une Rose. Cue horrified gasps.

I know, I know. You don’t have to say anything. There’s already a sort of Greek chorus going back and forth in my head every time I wear it, and it goes something like this:

Une Rose is the most photorealistic rose in the world.

Yeah. It is. It is almost hyper-realistically real, especially in that first hour when it explodes onto your skin, all huge and red and dripping with dew. But here’s the thing. Despite the fact there are thousands of different cultivars of rose, about a hundred different species, and over four hundred separate chemical compounds or ‘flavonoids’ that make up a rose scent, my unsubtle mind persists in linking the smell of a damask rose with the bottle of cheap attar of roses my grandmother had on her vanity table for more than three decades. To me, the smell of the Bulgarian damask rose, when not mixed with other notes as in a chypre or oriental, will always be the old-fashioned smell I associate with closed-up front rooms, handkerchiefs scented with rose oil, pressed flowers, and powdery, grandmotherly bosoms. KEEP ON READING

Do You Do Dupes?

in Reviews/Thoughts by

I do dupes. Do you?

You know the feeling. You have a sample of a perfume that takes your breath away. You want to snuggle into its warm embrace for the rest of your days. And then you take a look at the price tag. Erm, no. What am I, a human cash dispenser? If you’re anything like me, you go to Fragrantica and immediately look at what got the most votes for “this perfume reminds me of….”. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll chance blind buying a cheaper alternative if enough people says it smells just like your favorite. KEEP ON READING

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