Unsurprisingly, testing and sniffing perfumes is one of my favourite past times. As is stating the obvious, it seems. Anyway, seeing as I love sniffing things so darn much, I have dedicated the latest instalment in my Escentual A-Z of Fragrance to the science, nay, the art of testing fragrances. In the guide you’ll find a raft of handy tips to assist you with scouring the department store shelves, including a toolkit of essential materials. Click here to head over to Escentual and discover ‘T is for Testing’.
I know it’s only March, but I’m going to go ahead and say that 2015 is turning out to be a very good year for perfume. There have been some strong launches, scent such as Annick Goutal’s L’Ile au Thé and Jo Malone’s Birch & Black Pepper, but there’s also been some outstandingly beautiful new things, things like Lalique’s unexpectedly striking Living Lalique, and of course, Jean-Claude Ellena’s latest offering for Hermes – Le Jardin de Monsieur Li. In a world where flankers run riot and ideas, and artistry for that matter, can seem to be in short supply at times, it is perfumes such as these that restore faith and act as reassurance that the perfume industry still has tricks up its sleeve.
One fragrance that really struck me as quite wonderful and innovative is Jo Malone’s Incense & Cedrat. Launching in June as part of the brand’s Cologne Intense collection, this Marie Salamagne-penned fragrance centers on Omani frankincense – an ancient ingredient that filters through every aspect of life within Oman. Frankincense is burned in the country for a whole heap of reasons, whether it be to simply scent a house, ward off mosquitoes, or even as an expression of sadness. It is as vital to the Omani way of life as it is wonderful to smell, and Incense & Cedrat presents an incredibly pleasing take on the note that is entirely respectful of its importance and natural beauty.
To launch the fragrance, Jo Malone transformed their (rather swanky) London town house into Oman for the day. Stepping over the threshold was a real experience. The air was thick with frankincense, the smoke of which permeated the plaster and thick carpet pile of this very British building, transporting one to a foreign land. Once inside, one could be forgiven for thinking they had just hot footed it off the plane straight on to the Arabian Peninsula. It was a door to another world. Thus is the theme for Incense & Cedrat – realism through a dash of perfumery magic.
In this new series, I put together a quarterly overview of five of my favourite fragrant subjects that have been piquing my interest over the last three months. These items can be individual perfumes, brands or houses, genres or even themes that have been taking my fancy. They can even include other books, bottles and other blogs that have been keeping me entertained. There are no rules. Well, there are three rules with this series; 1) the subjects must be linked to fragrance somehow (a rule that I’m allowed to bend); and 2) the hitlist is to be published towards the end of each quarter; and 3) the list must include my favourite things, as if I were a fragrant sort-of Oprah.
So, now we’re heading towards the end of March what’s topping my hitlist for quarter one of 2015?
Hermès have to be admired for their consistency. Since installing the inimitable Jean-Claude Ellena as their in-house perfumer (he is soon set to retire and step down from his post), the house has regularly turned out fascinating, beautiful and nature-inspired fragrances in a cohesive style. Ellena’s perfumes for Hermès are not grand dames or challenging experiments, they are landscape paintings in pastel-coloured chalks or water colours. Their transparency and weightlessness are what sets them apart from the crowd, and whilst they follow a distinct style, they never fall into the trap of being too similar. There is variety in this extensive oeuvre as well as beauty.
One of Hermès more popular collection of fragrances is the ‘Les Jardin’ series. The five fragrances from this series are designed as fragrant tales of lengthy strolls through glorious gardens in various locations around the globe. Whether they be set on a roof top in Paris or along the Nile in Egypt, these are transportive scents that fit somewhere between abstraction and reality. Their delicate and translucent style gives the impression that air from each location has simply been bottled, and as one sprays this scented oxygen, the garden comes to life right in front of their eyes (or should I say, ‘nose’).
For 2015, Hermès has launched ‘Le Jardin de Monsieur Li’. Following a visit it to China, Jean-Claude Ellena pieced together this imaginary idea of a Chinese garden, that is designed as a retreat – a contemplative place for the visitor to take solace in and seek tranquility, and peace. “We all have something in us of Mr Li” says Hermès, and we all need a safe haven to run off to when the stresses of life take hold – Le Jardin Monsieur Li is that very place, and in it one can seek both happiness and a true sense of calm.
Stella, Stella, Stella, how I love thee. It’s true, I do and as far as eponymous signature fragrances go, or woody roses for that matter, Stella is hard to beat. I’m also a bit biased because my sister wears it, but that aside, I’m fully committed to admitting that Stella McCartney’s debut fragrance is a good egg. With that in mind, I was very intrigued to road test the new Eau de Toilette version of Stella, not least because that spotty pink bottle is to die for, but also to see whether it was faithful to the original, and most importantly, whether it was at all necessary.
Stella Eau de Toilette is the centrepiece of my Escentual column this week, in which I sink my teeth into this new scent to ascertain whether it is just ‘Stella Light’ (that sounds like a beer, doesn’t it?) or whether it is something different altogether. To read my review, and the results of this highly scientific analysis, simply click here to head on over to Escentual. If you’ve tried the EdT, or you simply a fan of the original, do please leave a comment either here or there – I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I absolutely cannot believe my luck! After receiving four nominations (for five articles) in the 2014 Jasmine Awards, I am completely extremely excited to announce that at the ceremony yesterday, I was lucky enough to win the ‘Digital Award’ for the second year in a row. I took the award home for my Escentual article ‘M is for Mugler‘ – an instalment in my Escentual A-Z of fragrance that was dedicated entirely to my favourite perfume brand, Thierry Mugler. To say I’m chuffed, would be an understatement and I absolutely must send a massive thank you to the team at Escentual, especially Emma, for all of their support and hard work.
I wasn’t the only one to pick up an award though and congratulations must also go out to Persolaise, who took home the ‘Blogger Award’ for his Basenotes piece, ‘Guardians Of The Past – A Trip To The Osmotheque‘. I’d also like to congratulate Lee Kynaston, who won the ‘Digital Experience’ award for his article, ‘How to Get the Most Out of Your Fragrance’ for fashionbeans.com, and I mustn’t also forget Liam Moore of ODOU Magazine and Dana El Masri for taking home the ‘Literary Award’ for the piece, ‘Reflection Eterna’l. This is the second year in a row that ODOU has won the much-coveted Literary Award, so massive congrats are due!
When it comes to perfume, Tom Ford knows what he’s doing. Not that he doesn’t know what he’s doing in the worlds of fashion and film, mind – he definitely seems pretty good in those fields too, but with perfume it is undeniable that he is a man of extraordinary style and taste. Since the launch of his flagship fragrance, Black Orchid, in 2006, Ford has crafted himself a fragrant empire that has seen the creation of over 50 fragrances. His output is prolific, varied, grand, opulent and fascinating, courting with true luxury through his unique aesthetic. Everything he does is unmistakably ‘Tom Ford’ and therefore, also pretty darn good.
Tom Ford’s fragrance line consists of two collections; the Private Blends and the Signature Collection, the latter of which showcases a more accessible range of masculine and feminine fragrances in that inimitable Tom Ford style. What strikes me as particularly intriguing about the Signature Collection is the excellent quality of the masculine offerings. When fragrances for men are so often dull, tired and unpleasant, Tom Ford’s act as a refreshing surprise that can restore one’s faith in fragrant humanity. They are handsome, stylish, classic and modern, as all masculine fragrances should be.
My favourite of Ford’s masculine fragrances is Noir – a plush, resinous and powdery scent that bears a striking resemblance to the style of the Guerlain classics, but with a modern twist. In a world of ‘fresh this’ and ‘sport that’, Noir is a bastion of hope for those that demand more from their masculine fragrance. Because it is such a breath of fresh air (not literally), Noir has deservedly been very popular, and for 2015 Tom Ford is launching a brand new interpretation of the fragrance (joining the original Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette), entitled ‘Noir Extreme’ – a new chapter in the Noir story that “reveals a new dimension of the “Noir Man”.