21st Century Toy – Heeley Chypre 21 Perfume Review

Chypre 21 - A Chypre for the 21st Century

Chypre 21 – A Chypre for the 21st Century

“Think of a famous French perfume from the previous century and it will undoubtedly a chypre”

– Heeley

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.

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Casting Shadows – Etat Libre d’Orange Hermann à Mes Côtés Me Paraissait Une Ombre Perfume Review

Casting Shadows

Casting Shadows

“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.

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Neon Iris – Jo Malone London Orris & Sandalwood Cologne Intense Perfume Review

Iris in Neon

Iris in Neon

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?

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The Two Fridas – En Voyage Perfumes Frida Perfume Review

Frida by En Voyage Perfumes

Frida by En Voyage Perfumes

Few artists are as iconic and confrontational as Frida Kahlo. From her dominant monobrow to her flirtation with androgynous clothing, Frida was never afraid to challenge preconceptions. Her work, which comprises of many self-portraits, is often brutal, displaying herself or her subjects in pain, or with their organs exposed, representing in some ways, her own damaged body that was catastrophically injured in a bus accident early on in her life. She challenged the world’s idea of what it means to be a woman, and defined her own idea of feminine beauty. Frida was a renegade and a free spirit, but she was also a prisoner of her own physical presence. Most of all, she was an artist with a fearless form of expression

The other Frida, the fragrance created by Shelley Waddington for En Voyage Perfumes, that is, also questions our preconceived notions. It takes the familiar note of tuberose and presents it as something otherworldly. It’s still recognisably ‘tuberose’ (which is music to the ears of this particular tuberose fiend), but it is so much more than just another take on a popular note, in fact, I would call it a detailed essay into the psyche and inspirations of one of the most unique artists ever to have lived. Frida was a rare bird and a unique voice from a richly cultured nation. Frida, the perfume is as complex and fascinating as its muse, and for that reason, it’s most definitely a worthy sniff.

“Viva la Frida Vida! This perfume celebrates the life of Frida Kahlo; the woman and artist, her suffering, her Mexican heritage and her love of nature. Frida was feminine, fearless and a revolutionary; she cross dressed, smoked cigars, and has been a part of pop culture for over 50 years. A world-travelled sophisticate who had love affairs with both men and women, Frida remained happiest at Casa Azul, her traditional family home. Tuberose, a flower that the Aztecs called the Boneflower, is an important note in this perfume as an homage to Frida’s brutal calamities and artistic transformation.”

– En Voyage Perfumes

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Engagement Distance – Bogue Profumo MAAI Perfume Review

Engaging with MAAI @ Bloom Perfumery

Engaging with MAAI @ Bloom Perfumery

I interrupt our usual programming of new perfume reviews for something that isn’t entirely brand new – MAAI by Bogue Profumo. I actually received my sample of MAAI quite a while ago. It was generously sent to me by a very lovely perfumista (she knows who she is) and with so many things, it got caught up in my sample pile and didn’t receive too much attention. You know how it is, fellow fragrance nerds, there’s simply so much out there to smell that not everything can receive the attention it deserves. Anyhoo, a few weeks back I was prepping my review for Papillon Artisan Perfumes’ marvellous Salome, and very much felt in the mood for modern fragrances with a classic or vintage feel. MAAI immediately sprung to mind and here we are…

MAAI comes from the Italian niche house, Bogue Profumo, ‘bogue’ being French slang for ‘bug’, as in a computer virus. Founded by perfumer Antonio Gardoni, Bogue offers “neo-classic perfumery through experiments: through infusing resins, woods, roots and metals in alcohol” and MAAI (which is named after the Japanese martial arts term that describes the distance between two opponents, translating as ‘interval’) is his boldest work. In a fortuitous coincidence of events that aligned rather nicely with my rediscovery of my sample of MAAI, I recently found myself at Bloom Perfumery, Covent Garden experiencing Gardoni unveil the hidden secrets of fragrance. The experience was rather enlightening.

Believe me when I say that Gardoni is an incredibly affable and creative individual who approaches perfumery from a completely different angle to most. His approach seems entirely experimental, right from the way that he infused the alcohol used in MAAI with resins, incense and juniper, to the intense multi-aldehyde accord he created for the fragrance, the results seem to come together in a completely organic manner. I admire his spirit and enthusiasm, and the fruits of his olfactory projects, as evidenced in MAAI and his other fragrance ‘O/E’, are really quite something!

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Edible Oud – Robert Piguet Oud Divin & Oud Délice Perfume Reviews

Lip-Smacking Ouds

Lip-Smacking Ouds

During this review I am going to attempt not to; a) mention; or b) moan about, the perfume industry’s boring obsession with oud. Oh, well that didn’t last very long, did it? In all seriousness, you don’t need to hear me bang on about oud and why we’re all fed up with it, because frankly, I’m fed up with saying it. So onwards and upwards. Oud is popular and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, despite our collective ennui regarding the subject. Which leads me nicely onto two brand new oud fragrances from luxury brand Robert Piguet…

The Piguet brand has exploded considerably over the last three years and their small capsule collection of a handful, or so of scents has increased significantly with 19 new fragrances created since 2012 (that’s quite the growth, people). In truth, they’ve been a bit of a mixed bag, and whilst I thought that scents such as Petit Fracas were great fun (and really worth sniffing), many haven’t lived up to the greatness of the brand’s classics such as Fracas, Bandit and Visa. Which, let’s face it, must be quite difficult, i mean, not every fragrance are ever going to be as great as Fracas!

This summer, Piguet have launched Oud Divin and Oud Délice, two follow-ups to their Oud, which was launched in 2012, and was a pretty big and funky take on the note. These two ouds take the signature of the original and turn it into something a little bit more palatable. They flirt with the gourmand and present the signature Oud Piguet, the “proprietary blend of resins and woods” that was the core of 2012’s stinky (in a good way) Oud, in two strikingly different ways – one is robust, shocking and intriguing, whilst the other pleases with softness and familiarity.

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New Escentual Post: U is for Unisex…

U is for Unisex

U is for Unisex

“Perfumes don’t have a gender” – I cannot tell you how many times I have said this, whether on this blog, or in casual conversation, and I stand by it. It is my firm belief that, seeing as a fragrance neither has balls or boobs, it cannot be assigned a particular gender. That said, perfumes do possess characteristics that can be perceived as either more masculine or feminine, depending on whose nose is doing the sniffing. To combat all of this brands try to dispel the gender myth (or do they reinforce it?) with unisex or genderless fragrances.

For my Escentual column this week, and the latest instalment in my ‘Escentual A-Z of Fragrance’ (only V, W, X, Y and Z to go, y’all) I’ve pondered the origin of the modern unisex perfume, and have also included some of my favourites for your reading pleasure. So if you’re wanting to dip your toes into a world where the gender lines don’t matter much at all, then simply click here and head on over to the Escentual blog to read my post. Don’t forget to tell me what your favourite unisex scents are.

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