Valentine’s Day told through the medium of the Victorian Language of Flowers. Click here.
“Think of a famous French perfume from the previous century and it will undoubtedly a chypre”
No perfume genre has had a harder time assimilating into the 21st century than the chypre. Often seen as the steely-eyed, stoic bastions of complex perfume personalities, the chypres of the world, take time to love. Established in 1917 by François Coty, the chypre genre has long been associated with the classics of French perfumery but can now seem dated, harsh and too complicated to understand. Personally I love a chypre. I adore their often standoffish nature and on the flip side, their sometimes cuddly, fuzzy hearts.
The problem with chypres is not that they are old fashioned, far from it in fact, the classic chypres are positively wonderful, no, the problem is that perfume houses don’t want to make them any more and when they do, we end up with something that is too sanitised, too pretty and ultimately not a chypre. The 20th century was the domain of Guerlain’s Mitsouko and Carven’s Ma Griffe whereas in the 21st century we have Idylle…
For his latest launch, Chypre 21, perfumer James Heeley intends to drag the chypre into the 21st century whilst paying homage to the classics of the genre. He wanted to create “an ode to Parisian chic” in the form of a “contemporary unisex fragrance” that takes all of the requisite building blocks of a chypre – bergamot, rose, patchouli, oak moss and sandalwood – but modernises them into something altogether more befitting of today. The result is both nostalgic and forward thinking.
“By my side, Hermann seemed to me like a shadow” – that’s the name of the latest fragrance from rebellious niche brand, Etat Libre d’Orange. A long, pretentious name in French is no real surprise from a brand that shot to fame by marketing a fragrance using the icon of a spewing dick, but much like all things Etat Libre d’Orange, this particular scent, with its particularly long name is absolutely fascinating, albeit without any erotic influences. Not that sexual innuendo, naughty hijinks and a healthy sense of humour are bad things, mind you!
Etat Libre d’Orange have moved into a new phase. Gone are the hilarious, shocking and hyper-sexualised names, and cartoons, all in favour of concepts inspired by Nijinsky’s ballets and poems by Victor Hugo. They seem to be treading a more serious path and elevating their olfactory art to a higher level. I think it’s a good move, one that will prevent them from being pigeonholed as the antisocial abuser of good taste. That rebellious and crass streak still exists – the spirit is very much alive in the brand’s back catalogue, but for now, Etat Libre d’Orange want to stand out for being innovative, not for being innovative and rude. I say power to them.
Hermann à Mes Côtés Me Paraissait Une Ombre, or ‘Hermann‘ for short, is inspired by Victor Hugo’s poem ‘What Two Horseman Were Thinking in the Forest’ and was created by Givaudan perfumer Quentin Bisch (La Fin du Monde & Ambre Imperial). The perfume plays with the idea of shadows, with shade serving as our companion or even our fragrance. They call it your alternate self – that side of you that is always there, whether it can be seen or not. Perfume too, can be a second self – a character we wear to send a message about who we are and who we want to be. But what happens when that second skin talks back? Etat Libre d’Orange seems to want to find out.
I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m rather fond of Jo Malone London. There is nothing more fun to me than untying the handsome black ribbon off the top of those beautiful yellow-cream boxes and pulling apart waves of tissue paper to reveal a gorgeously-scented treat for me or my home. There’s joy in those boxes, whether it be a bottle of Cologne or Cologne Intense, a scented candle or a bath oil, or all of the above (if the box is big enough, of course). They do what they do very well and their fragrances, which are odes to perfumery’s most famous and beautiful ingredients, present traditional themes with an eccentrically British twist. They’re often fun, sometimes striking and always eminently wearable. That’s Jo Malone London.
In their Cologne Intense Collection, the brand steps away from their lighter and more ephemeral sensibilities to explore richer notes in higher concentrations. These are often more opulent and exotic fragrances that have a bit more heft to them (but not too much, mind you). This is the collection where you will find ingredients such as oud, tuberose, incense and rose, all in their full, fragrant glory, and presented in Jo Malone London’s unfussy and relatable style. In January, the brand added the next chapter to the Cologne Intense Collection and two more ingredients to their ever-expanding list of notes explored: Orris & Sandalwood.
“This scent was about framing the orris to bring out its unique duality; it is both woody and powdery, floral and deep. We did this by using other woods as well as waiting a picture of the iris flower itself.”
– Pierre Negrin
Orris & Sandalwood, the latest instalment in Jo Malone London’s exploration of intensity was created by Pierre Negrin, the perfumer behind such masterpieces as Amouage’s Interlude Man and Tom Ford’s Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. Working with one of his favourite materials within the perfumer’s palette, Negrin states that he loves the complexity of orris, describing the note as a “perfume in itself” due to its varied odour profile which is “warm, sensual, feminine, masculine, violety, woody, powdery”. It’s no surprise then, that Negrin was excited to “create something new with such a classic ingredient”, and that is exactly what he managed to do. Orris & Sandalwood is billed as the next journey within the Cologne Intense Collection, one set in Tuscany during the iris harvest. It’s an exploration of perfumery’s most beautiful and expensive ingredient, all served in the contemporary manner that Jo Malone London is famous for, all with a touch of Pierre Negrin’s signature flair. It’s sounding good already, isn’t it?
This post is inspired by Chanel’s Misia, a fragrance named after Misia Sert, the godmother of the Ballets Russes and Coco Chanel’s greatest friend. Smelling Misia properly for the first time over the weekend I was struck by how cosmetic it was, in the sense that it was strikingly evocative of blushes, powders and lipsticks, giving the impression of a gigantic cast of impeccably made-up performers about to burst onto the stage. My mind wondered, as it does, and I got to thinking about other fragrances in the Lipstick League. So here we are with ‘Spritz Me, Kiss Me! – a roundup of five lipstick-esque fragrances.
Lipsticks and fragrances go together like bacon and eggs, it’s true. Every perfume lover will tell you their story of how the smell of their mother’s goodnight kiss was peppered by the lipstick, blush and perfume that she wore, forming a core scented memory that would last far into adulthood. Cosmetics and their distinct smells – odours of violet power, rose blush and waxy lipsticks – have permeated the world of perfume and perfumers have attempted to capture these smells in liquid form so that those precious memories of childhood can be replayed with each and every spritz. Here is my top five.
Facial hair is, and always has been, one of man’s many fashion statements. Over the years styles may have changed, with more men today rocking wild lumberjack beards that display impressive growth over handlebar moustaches, but the necessity for fastidious facial grooming is more prominent than ever. A good shave therefore, is incredibly important. Now, there are many steps to a good shave and a plethora of grooming products to aid each step of the way, but for the act itself one at least needs a decent shaving cream or foam and a soothing moisturiser of sorts to calm the inevitable burn. Oh and a razor too, that always helps.
In February, legendary luxury house CHANEL will launch two such things as limited editions within their BLEU DE CHANEL line. Now, regular readers of my blog will know that I’m more likely to spritz on some Nº5 than I am BLEU DE CHANEL (I do love a floral, after all), but that’s not going to stop me from exploring all that the line has to offer. With their SHAVE IN STYLE collection, which consists of the BLEU DE CHANEL Shave Cream and BLEU DE CHANEL Hydrating After Shave Gel, the iconic Parisian house are utilising the familiar scent of BLEU to fragrance two products that “ensure a perfect shave and an elegant and sophisticated trail”. As with all things CHANEL, the quality is top notch and without offering too many spoilers, I found them to make for a very enjoyable shave. Shaving is a ritual – a time to take care on oneself, and let’s face it, if you’re going to shave, and shave properly, why not do it with CHANEL?
Super Scent is back, people. Let us rejoice! If you’ve not encountered the series before, please let me fill you in. Essentially, for each instalment of Super Scent, Persolaise, Basenotes and I (please click the links to view their pieces) pick out our top fragrances from a particular brand. In the case of Persolaise and I, these are our personal favourites, whereas Basenotes offers a round-up of reader favourites using the data found within the fragrance directory. Now that you’re filled in, we can get on with this edition of Super Scent which is all about the most punk-like and pop art perfume brand of them all: the dastardly dirty and downright devilish Etat Libre d’Orange.
Etat Libre d’Orange (The Orange Free State) climaxed onto the scene in 2006 with a collection of 10 fragrances. Founded by Etienne de Swardt, who is described on the brand’s website as a “troublemaker and perfumer” (although he is more of an art director than an actual perfumer) the brand shook up the fragrance industry with fragrances inspired by, amongst many other things; cum, high-class hookers, belly buttons and nothing, and with a battle cry that shouted “perfume is dead, long live perfume”. They are a rebellious purveyor of perfume that doesn’t take itself to seriously, but most importantly they like to challenge our preconceptions of what a fragrance can be. Is it unwearable art or is it a marketable consumable? Eat Libre d’Orange seem to think that perfume can be anything one wants it to be.
This was a tricky one, I’m not going to lie to you. At the time of writing, Etat Libre d’Orange has an extensive catalogue consisting of 32 fragrances and the rules of Super Scent dictate that I must pick a top five. I’ve narrowed down my selection to those scents offered by the Orange Free State that I enjoy the most, but there are many not included here that I love, admire and respect, scents such as; Rien, Charogne, Jasmin et Cigarette, Eau de Protection and Fat Electrician to name but a few. So, without any further moaning about how hard this has been, let’s take a delve into the risqué world of Etat Libre d’Orange with my all-time top five!