It’s a strange paradox that the king of non-mainstream perfumery’s most divisive fragrances are those that are the least unusual – the L’Eau series. This is evidenced by the fact that there was practically a public outcry when Lutens launched his first ‘eau’. Die hard perfume nuts were found weeping in the street, bell jars were burned and bottles upon bottles of Ambre Sultan were smashed in moments of despair.
OK, I accept that I may have dramatised the situation a bit there but the truth is that many were disheartened that Serge Lutens, the man behind so many of perfumery’s modern greats, was going against his own grain by releasing anti-perfumes that were evocative of cold water and clean linen as opposed to life’s darker and more dangerous aspects. But people need worry not, both perfumes in the collection so far (L’Eau and L’Eau Froide) have turned out to be pretty decent, acting as a welcome change from Lutens’ usual oeuvre and showing how clean fragrances really should be done.
The latest perfume to be added to the L’Eau collection is ‘Laine de Verre‘. Taking its name from everyone’s favourite mode of loft installation – fibreglass – this new L’Eau penned by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake is as unusual as it is fresh and relaxed. Serge Lutens, in his usually riddle-filled way, states that the perfume is inspired by “complementary opposites” , elaborating further that the conflict is himself and the masculine and feminine. With that in mind, it’ll be no surprise that Lain de Verre is a genderless, inhuman fragrance that piques interest.
“With Laine de Verre, it is the metal which, physically, takes shape within its fragrance…” 
2014 is quickly become the year of the rose for me. It all started with the fabulous (and addictive) Tobacco Rose by soon-to-be-launched perfume house Papillon Perfumery and quickly spiralled into many days absorbed in clouds of Montale’s Black Aoud and a thirsty hunt for more roses. Nothing can satiate my appetite when I’m on a mission, so it was with much interest that I approached Isparta PG26 (hereafter referred to simply as ‘Isparta’) - the new rose fragrance from Parfumerie Générale.
Now Parfumerie Générale and I have a complex relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for the brand and Pierre Guillaume as a perfumer, but nothing from the line has bowled me over yet (Djhénne has come VERY close – I really should invest in a bottle but something holds me back) and I want so desperately to love something with PG’s intriguing gourmand signature.
Isparta is very much in the Pierre Guillaume style (read: woody/gourmand-ish) but displays more clarity than a lot of his perfumes. His other rose, Brulure de Rose for example, is a much thicker and ‘delicious’ take on the note, but Isparta thankfully errs more on the transparent side of things. This is perhaps due to the perfume’s inspiration, which is a woody rose based entirely in nature:
“The province of Isparta in Turkey is famed for its rose oil, obtained from a variety called ‘Isparta Summer Roses’, which grows profusely in gardens and terraced fields on the soft mountain slopes. The roses are picked early in the morning when they are half-open and their fragrance is the strongest… intense, rich and slightly spicy.”
Papillon Perfumery: Beautiful Perfumes Presented Without Gimmicks
There is so much ‘noise’ in the perfume industry in this day and age that it gets increasingly more difficult to pay attention to the cacophonous din of new launches and brand new niche brands. In order to rise above the noise many niche brands are resorting to ‘clever’ (read: annoying) gimmicks to make their wares stand out from the crowd, ranging from perfumes inspired by blood types (see Blood Concept) to scents that aren’t supposed to be perfumes (see Juliette Has a Gun). Rarely is the product allowed to speak for itself.
Still, for each naff niche brand there is a decent one with high quality products (brands like Arquiste, 4160 Tuesday’s and Maison Francis Kurkdjian to name just a very small few) that allows for the beauty of their scents to be the element that sets them apart from the many other bottles they share their shelf space with. These refreshing outfits remind one that within the crowds and crowds of scent on the market, there are individuals with a passion for perfume and a unique voice waiting to be heard.
One such brand is Papillon Perfumery. Created by New Forest perfumer Liz Moores and launching this year, Papillon has three perfumes devoid of any bells, whistles and gimmicks – they are simply expertly crafted and beautiful perfumes that truly speak for themselves. The perfumes (Angélique, Anubis and Tobacco Rose) prove that familiar themes can still be presented in unique ways if one just approaches them in an entirely different manner.
Anyone who has been within an inch of this blog or my Twitter feed will know that my latest obsession is Byredo’s 1996. Never before has a perfume so quickly made its merry little way up to the very top of my wish list, leaving me drooling and lusting after it so badly that my long-suffering partner had no choice but to gift me a bottle for Christmas. For his sanity you understand?
So yes, I was very pleased with my bottle of 1996 and even more so when I found a little sample of a Byredo scent I’ve not smelled accompanying it – Black Saffron. Launched in 2012, this supposedly dark take on saffron, where the golden spice is merged with violet and leather to create something entirely unexpected, is a rather interesting scent indeed. Byredo describe the inspirations behind it as follows:
“Saffron is holy to all Hindus, is the colour of Buddhist robes and has become a symbol for India. It has always been a part of Byredo’s founders upbringing in both smell, taste and colour. Black Saffron is a fragrance inspired by this very idea of sublime unity.”
For my Escentual column this week I was tasked with selecting some of my favourite ‘winter warmers’ for men and with the weather being as turbulent and dreadful as it is, I was definitely up for the challenge! My picks include; a new classic from Amouage, a wild card from Dior and a severely underrated scent from Jean Paul Gaultier – to name just a few.
So boys and girls (because, unsurprisingly, the list is pretty unisex), if you’re in the mood for some olfactory comfort blankets, head on over to Escentual by clicking the image above to read all about my favourite manly fragrances for winter. Don’t forget to tell me what winter warmers you’ll be rocking this season, too!
The Final Review of 2013: Tauer Phi Une Rose de Kandahar, Vero Profumo Voile d’Extraits, Hiram Green Moon Bloom and Puredistance BLACK
I am plagued by a constant lack of organisation in my life and it’s always at this time of year that I cannot help but feel I am running out of time. In a little over a week, 2013 will be a distant memory on the horizon and everyone and everything will be fully focused on what 2014 will bring.
But it isn’t time to give up on 2013 just yet, after all It has been a busy year for perfume tmwith way over 1,000 new launches to sniff and throughout the year I’ve been seeking out the good, the bad and the downright ugly to help you know what to bother with and what to ignore. On the 27th December I’ll be holding my annual perfume awards (‘The Candies’) but before we start the celebrations I wanted to share with you four reviews of perfumes that (for the most part) deserve not to be ignored this year.
Here you’ll find new scents from the likes of Tauer Perfumes, Vero Profumo and Puredistance – venerable houses that constantly push the boundaries of the perfume industry, as well as Hiram Green, a newcomer. So for the very final review of the year let’s take one last look at some new fragrances that have helped make 2013 one heck of an interesting year for perfumery.
Neela Vermeire’s Fourth Fragrance – Ashoka (Photo: Mike Tassy for Neroli)
It must have been a rather daunting and unenviable task for both Neela Vermeire and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour when creating their fourth perfume together and the first to be launched since the initial trio of India-inspired fragrances in the Neela Vermeire Collection. These three perfumes – Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling! – were so well received and critically acclaimed that the pressure really must have been on when the time came to add a brand new fragrance to the series – a fragrance named Ashoka. Luckily for us, this pressure does not seem to have phased this dynamic duo one bit…
“Inspired by a legendary ruler, Neela Vermeire Creations’ new release Ashoka, is a tribute to an emperor who was conquered by his own compassion at the moment his victory was assured. He converted to Buddhism and devoted the rest of his life to spreading the Buddha’s teachings, to truth, to justice and to compassion for all living creatures beneath the sun. His own evolution from ruthless conquerer to benevolent emperor is reflected in Ashoka’s journey from the fierce opening to a softly floral heart & the gentle embrace of its richly complex drydown.”
Ashoka is Neela’s fourth perfume and first to be released outside of her initial trio of perfumes inspired by different eras of Indian culture. It would make sense then, that Ashoka strikes a slightly different chord from the others in the collection whilst managing not to stick out like a sore thumb. The fragrance is a continuation of the historical Indian narrative but in an olfactory sense, Ashoka leads Neela Vermeire Creations in an entirely new and exciting direction.
Nowadays every perfume release comes with a story, normally one that involves a good degree of creative license courtesy of the brand’s PR department. This is no bad thing really, a good story can add to the experience of a scent, after all no art is quite as transportive as the art of olfaction, but at times it’s best to approach a perfume without any pre-conceived notions and just allow the scent itself to tell the story.
Some stories in particular are important and the tale behind Mona di Orio’s latest release – ‘Violette Fumée‘ – is both worth telling and incredibly touching. Created privately by Mona di Orio before her death for the private use of her business partner and co-founder Jeroen Oude Sogtoen, Violette Fumée captures “the melody of Jeroen’s favourite passions, memories and materials.” It’s a perfume made out of love, admiration and respect.
On an olfactory level, Violette Fumée is described by the brand as an “oriental balsamic floral” and in the same vein as many other perfumes from the house it feels incredibly unusual when compared to its peers. It stands as a true testament to Mona’s talent as a perfumer and is a fitting legacy for someone who brought so much intrigue to the world of fragrance.
Kirsten 1996 by Inez van Lamsweerde an Vinoodh Matadin
Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin – more widely known simply as ‘Inez and Vinoodh’ – are world-famous fashion and art photographer, renowned for snapping pictures for the likes of Björk, Lady Gaga, Vivienne Westwood and Vogue, just to name a very small few. They are highly respected for their versatile approach to photography and are, in their own way, quasi-celebrities within the art world.
Not content simply as a twosome, Inez and Vinoodh collaborated with popular niche brand Byredo to create a “private edition” fragrance to serve as a Christmas gift for beloved friends and clients. Rumour has it that the fragrance was so well received that they simply had no choice to release it for the hoi polloi to enjoy – thus the wide release of Byredo’s latest fragrance, ’1996′.
Inspired by the photo ‘Kirsten 1996′ (see above), 1996 is described by Byredo founder Ben Gorham as “an olfactory snapshot not only of the image but of our emotional response to it” and it stands as a unique offering where an image is used to be evocative of a perfume rather than the other way round. The scent intends to create “a visual language, for perfume and, like all great collaborations, shared sentience” (make of that what you will).
L’Artisan Parfumeur has an excellent track record for creating interesting and wearable fragrances of exceptionally high quality at a (relatively) affordable price. They are arguably one of the first ‘niche’ houses and whilst they may have had more than the occasional creative lull over the years they now very much seem to be on track, partly thanks to venerable perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour.
‘Explosions d’Èmotions’ has been created to translate “the extraordinary emotional power of fragrance” and as a series it contains three perfumes that cover a range of emotions from the intimate and sexual to the giddying and frankly downright maniacal. This olfactory funhouse is an odd mix with all three fragrances – Déliria, Amour Nocturne and Skin on Skin – taking one on a journey of wild experiences from pleasure to fear and sex to err, bread making…