Jo Malone ‘Rocks the Ages’ With Their Latest Collection
Here’s a bit of a quickie review to end the week. Over the years I’ve dipped in and out of Jo Malone’s catalogue of fragrances. For the most part I find them to be well-executed scents that range from clean easy-pleasers like Lime, Basil & Mandarin and Earl Grey & Cucumber etc. to more intriguing oddities such as Rain & Angelica and Wood Sage & Sea Salt(there’s also that upcoming Incense & Cedrat that I keep saying I’m obsessed – more of that soon). They may not necessarily be the first brand that I’d go to if I was looking for a wild and wacky fragrant adventure, but I’m always keen to see what the world of Jo Malone has to offer.
As they often do, Jo Malone have launched a collection of limited edition fragrances. This year, the theme is British history and the name of the game is “Rock the Ages”. Charting British tradition from the Tudor era to the present day the five fragrances (four new ones plus a limited edition bottle of popular fragrance, Pomegranate Noir) map the many facets of our vibrant history. Birch & Black Pepper (perfumer: Christine Nagel), the subject of today’s review is the one assigned to modern Britain, to 2015 specifically, and it’s described by the brand as being “individual, audacious and stylish”.
New From Guerlain – ‘Ma Robe Pétales’ La Petite Robe Noire Eau Fraîche
I’ve always been a big fan of Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noire. When it originally launched as a boutique exclusive way back in 2009, I remember saying that the esteemed French house was missing a trick by not releasing the scent as a mainstream launch. It’s such a fun, fruity and frivolous scent, with oodles of depth and character, that it was almost a shame for it not to have a wider audience. Guerlain obviously felt the same, and in 2012 they remixed the juice slightly (giving it a bit more fizz) and unleashed La Petite Robe Noire all over the globe. It has been a huge success.
Of course, with huge success comes flankering, and lots of it. Since 2012, we’ve seen the launch of Eau de Toilette, Extrait and Couture versions of Guerlain’s famous garment, and all have been pretty good (especially the Extrait and Couture). This summer, Guerlain are extending their wardrobe of fragrant black dresses even further with La Petite Robe Noire Eau Fraîche (subtitled as ‘Ma Robe Pétales’), a much fresher and greener take on the cherry-rose signature of the original. Click here to read my review of this latest flanker in my Escentual column this week.
Death, Decay and Renewal – Volume 3 by Gorilla Perfume
The fragrant themes explored by Gorilla Perfume have never been conventional. Let’s not forget that they are the very same people that bottled the scent of nightclubs filled with ladyboys (see Ladyboy) and mixed two polar opposing perfumes together to create something rather remarkable (see Breath of God). They do all of this with exceptional talent and remarkably good materials, AND at a reasonable price, which is no mean feat in this world of hyper-luxe dreck. It’s witchcraft, I tell you.
With their third volume of fragrances, named ‘Death, Decay and Renewal’, Gorilla perfumers Mark and Simon Constantine have translated complex emotions associate with loss, whether it be the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship, into a fascinating collection of perfumes. The three fragrances (Death and Decay, All Good Things and Kerbside Violet) in Volume 3 are not what one expects. They take the macabre and make it optimistic, and present the challenging as comforting and familiar. As always, Gorilla Perfume push the envelope in the most fascinating of ways.
[Also, make sure to swing by tomorrow for a special Gorilla Perfume giveaway.]
It’s annoying when a brand discontinues a fragrance. It’s understandable too, and we’d all be silly if weren’t able to admit that we didn’t understand the simple fact that if something doesn’t sell, it’s gotta go. It’s called the perfume ‘industry’ for a reason, people. So yes, discontinuations are annoying. Understandable, but annoying none the less. Lucky for us though, there are occasions where a discontinued fragrance will rise from the dead, which brings me nicely on to the subject of my Escentual column this week.
French fragrance house, Annick Goutal have just relaunched Eau de Ciel. Created in 1985, this fresh and breezy green floral is the antithesis of the ’80s style of fragrances. It’s a large wave of wind and musk, but it’s remarkably weightless. I’m glad it’s back, and come spring time, I reckon it’s going to be a big hit in my wardrobe. Click here to head on over to Escentual and read my review.
A few weeks back I slapped on some of Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver (the Eau de Parfum) and commented on my instragram, that “when in doubt, go for vetiver”. A flippant comment for sure, but it is one that seems to ring true, and let’s face it: you really can’t go wrong with vetiver. Vetiver, a fragrant perennial grass native to India, is so successful as a perfume ingredient because it is so distinct – there isn’t really much else that smells like it. Of course, being distinct does mean that it is less versatile as a note than some others (rose, for example), but many perfumers have found interesting ways to utilise the ingredient as a main feature or a supporting act. I like vetiver very much and when one is in the mood for something clean, sharp and dashingly dapper, there’s not much else that can beat it.
There are many excellent vetiver fragrances out there, many of which are aimed predominately at men. Classics such as Guerlain’s Vetiver (Jean-Paul Guerlain; 1961) immediately spring to mind, but one can’t ignore wonderful modern interpretations such as the aforementioned Grey Vetiver (Harry Fremont; 2009), Etat Libre d’Orange’s Fat Electrician (Antoine Maisondieu; 2009), Lalique’s Encre Noire (Nathalie Lorson; 2006) and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle’s Vétiver Extraordinaire (Dominique Ropion; 2002), to name but a few. Each one does something entirely different with this incredibly familiar note, whether it be amping it up to the armpit-like spice of the Malle or pairing it with gorgeously creamy and smoky resins as the Etat Libre d’Orange does. Vetiver may not be a shape-shifting material, but it certainly does have an element of range.
One vetiver that doesn’t get a huge amount of press is Carven’s. Now, this may be due to the fact that it has been in and out of production since its launch in 1957, but now its back and should be considered as a serious contender for any vetiver afficiando. Housed within a new and gorgeously modern bottle, coloured with the most attractive shade of green Carven’s Vétiver, is that rare thing – a casual vetiver. This is not a vetiver fragrance to be worn with a sharp suit or a crisp white shirt, no, no, no. This is a vetiver to pair with a chunky piece of knitwear in muted, earth tones. It’s a relaxed vetiver to cuddle up with – to explore softly and quietly – a vetiver that salutes introspection rather than attention seeking ostentation.
“Rather than the lover of the Carven Woman, the Carven Man is a brother and a soul mate.”
The above quote from the press release for Carven’s brand new masculine fragrance, ‘Carven Pour Homme‘ struck me as quite refreshing. So often, us gents are marketed fragrances on their ability to attract the opposite sex (a strategy that weirdly doesn’t work for me – I wonder why), positioning the wearer as an object of physical attraction rather than a kindred spirit. Carven, whose fashion and fragrance lines have recently been revived, appear to want to do something different.
Carven further describe their man as “a handsome face; even better, an interesting face of undeniable strength and gentleness, calm and determination” – a guy that they can envisage “strolling with a book of poetry in hand, rowing swiftly on the Seine, [and] sipping a coffee on the terrace of a Paris café”. This romanticised notion of the modern man is a break from the steroid pumped, oily chested and fastidiously preened berk one is so used to seeing in perfume advertisements, and for that reason, he sounds rather wonderful indeed.
Penned by perfumers Francis Kurkdjian (Le Mâle, Carven Le Parfum & the Maison Francis Kurkdjian line) and Patricia Choux (Jo Malone Blue Agava & Cacao and Clive Christian X for Women), Carven Pour Homme is the first masculine fragrance from the brand since its relaunch. Positioned as a signature scent for the house, the scent is described as “the very essence of Carven style in a masculine mode” and has been created as an everyday item that intends to be an essential piece in the Carven wardrobe. Carven Pour Homme is a fragrance created in the relaxed and comfortable style of Guillaume Henry, who is now the former Artistic Director of the brand (now at Nina Ricci), and it fits perfectly.
There are few brands whose launches I look forward to more than those from Maison Francis Kurkdjian. I’ll just come out and say it – I’m a Francis Kurkdjian fanboy. If you’ve been following my Instagram over the last week, you will have seen proof of this in the form of me spending much of my time enjoying Kurkdjian’s creations for rebellious fashion designer, Jean Paul Gaultier (specifically; Le Mâle, Fragile and Fleur du Mâle). Maison Francis Kurkdjian, the perfumer’s very own brand is one of my favourites and with MFK, Kurkdjian manages to weave simplicity and complexity effortlessly together, creating approachable but high quality, and more importantly, high class perfumes.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s latest fragrance is À la Rose, and unsurprisingly, it’s all about the humble rose – 250 of them, in fact. You can never get enough rose in my opinion, and seeing as the flower can be interpreted in so many different ways, ranging from delicious rosewater treats (see Essence Nº1: Rose by Elie Saab) to heady examples of rosy exoticism (see Guerlain’s Nahéma), there’s always a surprise, or two, to be had. In short: the world of rose is never boring.
Kurkdjian already has two roses within his collection (Lumière Noire pour Femme & pour Homme -two heavy and oriental roses), so exactly what does À la Rose bring to the table that we’ve not seen from the perfumer before? Well, the focus is definitely quite different and this new rose feels very much in keeping with Kurkdjian’s penchant for clear and radiant signatures that present familiar themes in their purest form. It does exactly what one expects it to and for once, lives up to the marketing spiel, which is somewhat of a rarity in the industry today. À la Rose is described as follows:
“A la Rose is an ode to femininity, a declaration of love captured in a fragrance. Two hundred and fifty precious roses from Grasse offer their radiance and their unmatched richness in every flacon”