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?
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”.
Funky indie perfumery, 4160 Tuesdays has announced that they are crowdfunding seven seriously sinful new fragrances as part of a collection entitled ‘Crimes of Passion’. Sarah McCartney, the brand’s perfumer, has turned to crowdfunding in order to allow for lab time to create the scents, as well as some nifty materials to put in them. Here’s what Sarah has to say:
“At 4160Tuesdays we’re making seven new perfumes, The Crimes of Passion series – scents so beautiful you would follow whoever wears them to the end of the world just to smell them again. (That’s the plan anyway. No promises.) We make perfumes for people who love the way they smell, and we don’t declare that they’re for men or women. We prefer to let our customers decide what they like for themselves.”
– Sarah McCartney
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”.
Yesterday I took a look at three of the fragrance within Gorilla Perfume’s latest collection of scent, ‘Death, Decay and Renewal’. All-in-all, I found this third volume from the renegade perfumers to be exceptionally well-crafted, thought provoking, and despite the doom and gloom in the name, surprisingly optimistic too. Death, Decay and Renewal defies expectations and instills a sense that leads one to think that, even at the worst of times, there is still beauty in the world.
One of the more unusual scents in the collection is Kerbside Violet, a fragrance that has been created to capture the idea of chance encounters in an urban setting. I’m a big fan of violet as a note, so much so in fact, that I dedicated a whole post to it in my Jasmine Award winning Guide to Violet. So to celebrate the nationwide launch of Gorilla Perfume’s Volume 3, I have a 10ml spray bottle of the intriguing Kerbside Violet to give away.