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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Somewhere in Paradise – Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Portofino Perfume Review

Somewhere in Paradise Lies Tom Ford's Fleur de Portofino

Somewhere in Paradise Lies Tom Ford’s Fleur de Portofino

Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino series is a collection within a collection. Housed like a fragrant Matryoshka inside the Private Blend collection, the four colognes that currently comprise the series (Neroli Portofino, Mandarino di Amalfi, Costa Azzura, and now, Fleur de Portofino) tick all of the required boxes; 1) they smell great; 2) they are so much more than straight-up Eau de Colognes; 3) they’re unique; and 4) they have decent longevity and sillage. Don’t be fooled by the (rather beautiful) transparent bottles cast in varying hues of blue and green, because there are some intriguing, and complex juices within.

Fleur de Portofino is the latest addition to the Neroli Portofino collection and it marks a bit of a shift from the world of contemporary Eau de Cologne, to the domain of the floral, where the wistful reigns supreme. The spirit of the collection is well and truly alive here, with lots of aquatic vibrancy and freshness however, flowers take centre stage and the beauty of citrus has been instructed to wait in the wings. The result is a floral that presents a new olfactory take on the mediterranean – one that is teeming with life.

“Vibrant. Carefree. Captivating. Private Blend Fleur de Portofino is inspired by the cascades of white flowers that spill off the the branches of the white acacia beloved shade tree that dots the mediterranean’s gardens and lines its tranquil avenues. Fleur de Portofino creates a crisp and bright floral accord from this bloom, then surrounds it with effervescent citruses and acacia honey. The fragrance creates an effect of sheer floral possession that is incomparably hypnotic and extremely bold.”

– Tom Ford

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As Good as it Gets – Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Cologne Indélébile Perfume Review

Cologne Indélébile - As Good as Cologne Gets

Cologne Indélébile – As Good as Cologne Gets

Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is a unique brand.  Positioning himself somewhere between Creative Directory and Fragrance Curator, Malle is responsible for putting the perfumer centre stage, famously slapping their names on the bottles of the fragrances they create, and allowing them artistic carte blanche to create perfumes that are works of art.  It’s quite staggering to think just how many modern classics come from this line – Carnal Flower, Portrait of a Lady, Le Parfum de Therese, Une Fleur de Cassie and Vetiver Extraordinaire – I really could go on, there really isn’t a single ‘dud’ in the collection, and when viewed against the plethora of niche brands on the market, Editions de Parfums de Frederic Malle puts many to shame.

The most iconic, and in my personal opinion, the most beautiful fragrances within the collection are penned by legendary perfumer, Dominique Ropion – a man that conducts fragrant symphonies, rather than simply creates perfumes. He is the nose behind some of the greatest fragrances from the last thirty years. In short, the man is a genius and he seems to be the go-to guy for Malle when the brand wishes to ‘perfect’ a genre, whether that be the greatest tuberose scent (Carnal Flower) or the ideal rose fragrance (Portrait of a Lady), or even the coolest modern fougére (Geranium Pour Monsieur).

With that it mind, it seems appropriate for Ropion to be the nose to take on the humble Eau de Cologne with a view of creating the cologne – a cologne to serve as a reference point for the genre, and blow all others out of the water. The result is ‘Cologne Indélébile’ (‘Permanent Cologne’), a fragrance that is described by the brand as being a “modern yet traditional Eau de Cologne that lasts forever”, which is quite a statement to be making, if you ask me. With this permanent cologne, Malle and Ropion are attempting to redefine an age-old genre and drag it firmly into the 21st century by embracing modern technology (specifically through the use of ‘technical musks’). If that’s not an exciting prospect for a fragrance, then I don’t know what is!

“A clean scent, yet surprisingly magnetic. A modern yet traditional Eau de Cologne that lasts forever. Dominique Ropion embraces musk’s nature as both a quasi-aphrodisiac and a scent of purity to create a very personal interpretation of Eau de Cologne. A splash of the best neroli intertwined with orange blossom, bergamote, and the most technical musks for a scent that endures, and endures, and endures… Cologne Indélébile.”

– Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

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Perfume with Wings – adidas ORIGINALS by Jeremy Scott Perfume review

adidas ORGINALS x Jeremy Scott

adidas ORGINALS x Jeremy Scott

I do like a nice surprise, especially when perfume is concerned, and definitely when my cynical perfume blogger hat is firmly atop my head. adidas ORIGINALS by Jeremy Scott, the first fragrant collaboration between the legendary sportswear brand and the pop-culture dabbling designer, is one such surprise and I have no shame in admitting that I really do like it much more than I thought I would. As will be a shock to nobody, I’m not a hugely sporty person, and my personal style certainly couldn’t be described as ‘pop-fashion’ (as Scott’s designs are). Further to this, Scott’s first olfactory creation for MOSCHINO (the disappointingly ‘style over substance’ scent that is TOY) didn’t fill me with too much hope for a masterpiece. All-in-all, I didn’t expect to think much of this new collaboration. I was wrong, of course.

adidas ORIGINALS by Jeremy Scott makes a statement right from the moment one removes it from the “thermoformed velvet” placement inside it’s shoe box-like outer packaging. The bottle, which is shaped like one of Scott’s ‘winged’ adidas high-tops will divide opinion but personally, I think it’s really cool and it’s as much a decorative object as it is a vessel for the fragrance. Speaking of the perfume, adidas and Jeremy Scott have worked with perfumers Maurice Roucel (Musc Ravageur, Gucci Envy & Iris Silver Mist) and Philippe Roques to create a blend that reportedly “defies expectations with a unisex formula that contrasts masculine and feminine” – and you know what? They’ve done exactly that!

“Fashion designer, Jeremy Scott defines pop fashion. His brand of rebellion-humurous, optimistic-polished is irresistible to international pop stars and style-makers alike. His vision for remixing and elevating popular culture – with spectacular results – tells the story of the possible made real. There are no limits. There is no questioning. Reality will bend. His first fragrance, Jeremy Scott for adidas ORIGINALS, embodies the high-contrast world of pop fashion where imagination is everything.”

– adidas ORIGINALS

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A Trip to Oman – Jo Malone Incense & Cedrat Cologne Intense Perfume Review

A Trip to Oman - Incense & Cedrat Cologne Intense

A Trip to Oman – Incense & Cedrat Cologne Intense

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.

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A Safe Haven – Hermès Le Jardin de Monsieur Li Perfume Review

Le Jardin de Monsieur Li - The Final Instalment in Hermès' 'Un Jardin' Series

Le Jardin de Monsieur Li – The Final Instalment in Hermès’ ‘Un Jardin’ Series

Hermès have to be admired for their consistency. Since installing the inimitable Jean-Claude Ellena as their in-house perfumer (he is soon set to retire and step down from his post), the house has regularly turned out fascinating, beautiful and nature-inspired fragrances in a cohesive style. Ellena’s perfumes for Hermès are not grand dames or challenging experiments, they are landscape paintings in pastel-coloured chalks or water colours. Their transparency and weightlessness are what sets them apart from the crowd, and whilst they follow a distinct style, they never fall into the trap of being too similar. There is variety in this extensive oeuvre as well as beauty.

One of Hermès more popular collection of fragrances is the ‘Les Jardin’ series. The five fragrances from this series are designed as fragrant tales of lengthy strolls through glorious gardens in various locations around the globe. Whether they be set on a roof top in Paris or along the Nile in Egypt, these are transportive scents that fit somewhere between abstraction and reality. Their delicate and translucent style gives the impression that air from each location has simply been bottled, and as one sprays this scented oxygen, the garden comes to life right in front of their eyes (or should I say, ‘nose’).

For 2015, Hermès has launched ‘Le Jardin de Monsieur Li’. Following a visit it to China, Jean-Claude Ellena pieced together this imaginary idea of a Chinese garden, that is designed as a retreat – a contemplative place for the visitor to take solace in and seek tranquility, and peace. “We all have something in us of Mr Li” says Hermès, and we all need a safe haven to run off to when the stresses of life take hold – Le Jardin Monsieur Li is that very place, and in it one can seek both happiness and a true sense of calm.

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And Breathe – Annick Goutal L’Ile au Thé Perfume Review

"The Volcanic Island of Jeju"

“The Volcanic Island of Jeju”

Work is stressful. I know, I know, I’m playing the role of Captain Obvious here, but sometimes it just needs to be said, and I’m sure many of you would agree. Anyway, work is stressful and it’s important to enjoy some ‘me’ time after a long hard day at the office. We all have ways of relaxing. My method is tea. I don’t drink tea all day at work but when I get home, I always have a cup of Earl Grey. This has almost become a ritual and often, when that cup is finished, the stress of the day has been washed away and I’m ready to enjoy the evening. I feel cleansed. I think that putting on my skeleton pyjamas helps too, but that’s another post for another day.

Tea has been used for ritualistic purposes in many cultures for thousands of years, but it hasn’t really made much of a break into perfume, despite the fact that it smells heavenly, in all of its varieties. Honestly, there is no odour on Earth more pleasing than a fresh box of bergamot heavy Earl Grey – it’s powdery, zesty and fizzing with black tea goodness. Let’s not even get into the realms of Lapsang Souchong and Jasmine tea – we’ll be here for a while. In short, tea smells great and there is only a handful of decent tea fragrances out there, which is a shame.

Well stop the presses, dear friends, because I think I’ve found a really good one. It’s called L’Ile au Thé (Island Tea) and it comes from chic French fragrance house, Annick Goutal. Created by Goutal’s in-house perfumers, Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal, L’Ile au Thé takes inspiration from the volcanic South Korean island of Jeju, where the landscape is littered with fields of tangerines and hills brimming with tea. L’Ile au Thé is more than just a tea fragrance thought – it’s a mood and a feeling, and a restorative landscape born from fire, air and greenery. This is a fragrance that encourages one to spritz, sit back and just breathe.

“Where lava rocks give birth to lush green plant-life buffeted by the winds. Journeying through its undulating landscape, Camille and Isabelle are taken away by their emotions”

– The Island of Jeju

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