Houses of Parliament, Effect of Sunlight, Claude Monet, 1903
London is an awesome city. I say this not just because I am British and therefore undeniably biased in the matter, but also because it is a simple truth. London has a charisma that many cities do not, stemming from the many contrasts that besiege its winding streets. These disorganised clashes of new and old, rough and smooth, and clean and dirty, make for a cultural mish-mash that is at times, utterly bonkers and entirely unique but ultimately very charming.
One man that loves London as much as I do is Tom Ford and to celebrate the opening of his Sloane Square boutique in 2013, the incredibly prolific fashion and perfume purveyor that is Mr. Ford created his very own olfactory tribute to this finest and fairest of cities. Taking its name from the city of the same name and launching last year, ‘London‘ is the newest addition to the Private Blend collection, available only in a select number of stores within the nation’s capital.
The brand describes London as being “rich, elegant and urbane” – three words that could certainly be attributed to the city after which it is named, if only just the glamorous bits in which one would find a Tom Ford boutique. But this perfume is more than just a tribute to a city, it is in fact a celebration of Mr. Ford’s favourite ingredient – oud. Now before you all start rolling your eyes at the sheer mention of the ‘o’ word (I see you), heed this notice: this perfume is a damn good example of how to do an inconspicuous oud – an oud that doesn’t take centre stage and plays a supporting role, or as they used to call them back in the day – an oriental.
My love of Thierry Mugler’s Alien, and all things Mugler in fact, is widely known. I just cannot help myself when it comes to the weird, wacky and über glamorous creations that come straight from Muglerville – they resonate deep within my soul, awaking the hidden Glamazon inside of me. So I do feel very excited when I hear that the brand is launching a brand new fragrance, especially if aforementioned scent it is to be a close cousin of my most beloved Alien.
Mugler’s latest launch is exactly that - Alien Eau Extraordinaire – a lighter take on the the brashness of Alien, that reportedly “accentuates incandescent freshness” and amps up the scent’s brighter citrus notes. Alien, whilst being a foghorn of a scent (a beautiful foghorn, of course), did display an impressively fresh citrus facet worthy of further exploration, so it is with great interest that I approached this entirely more luminous creation.
Created by perfumer Dominique Ropion who, along with Laurent Bruyere, was responsible for the original, Alien Eau Extraordinaire is a stand alone fragrance described by Mugler as being “charged with a positive energy” and “combining a blend of notes known for their uplifting, energising powers with the unique signature of Alien to convey a feeling of happiness and serenity for all women”. That all sounds rather promising, if you ask me!
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.”
It was only a few weeks ago that I was moaning on Twitter about the lack of decent niche masculines this year, remarking that there has been fluffing tons of beautiful, wonderful and masterful feminine and unisex fragrances in 2013 but very few impressive things on the male side of the fence. Perhaps creating decent perfumes for men is less of a priority for perfume companies nowadays. Who knows?
So yes, I was having a moan when the ever-knowledgeable Nick Gilbert said that I absolutely had to try (I’m paraphrasing, of course) the latest fragrance from Huitième Art – ‘Monsieur‘. Knowing that any recommendation from M. Gilbert is worth listening to I trotted off to Les Senteurs, one of my favourite perfume boutiques, to procure a sample of the latest scent from perfumer Pierre Guillaume.
Monsieur is billed as a “harmonious blend of eight woody notes” and is inspired by the Massif de Bois Noirs, where “torrents and waterfalls from Auvergne’s mountains carry along scents of moss, bark, wood, earth, humus and stone”. What one finds with Monsieur, is that it is a fragrance that is not afraid to be bold and whilst it may not be the most unique interpretation of woods, it does showcase an interesting sense of balance that is something entirely new.
Seeing as it the very last week of Movember, a month in which we celebrate all aspects of masculinity, it’s only fair that we also take time to look at some pretty epic masculine fragrances. Over the course of the month I’ve been featuring classic masculine scents on Escentual, but this week I’d like to focus on two new and very well executed fragrances for 2013 – one designer and one ‘niche’ – starting with the newly launched Bottega Veneta Pour Homme.
The astute amongst you will know that Bottega Veneta have already proved that they take the world of perfume seriously with their debut feminine fragrance launch of the same name. The feminine was a masterfully composed (if perhaps a little too whispery) ode to the leather goods for which the brand is famous for and it appears that its masculine counterpart has been subject to the same degree of thought and quality control.
Created by perfumers Daniela Andrier (Prada’s Infusion d’Iris, Candy and basically everything else good they’ve done) and Antoine Maisondieu (Etat Libre d’Orange’s Fat Electrician and Comme des Garçons Stephen Jones), Bottega Veneta Pour Homme feels very much like an extension of the luxury leather feel of the feminine Eau de Parfum but in a more outdoorsy, nature-filled and relaxed manner.
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.
Too often us perfume lovers (and bloggers) can don our snobby caps and declare that all designer fragrance output is trash. This is more than just simple misconception, it is in fact a big fat lie, after all most of the perfumes that one would laud as a ‘classic’ are from designer outfits such as Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior – the most ‘designery’ of brands.
That said, there is still a lot of dreck out there and the general modus operandi appears to be to create inoffensive fragrances that cater to the tastes of the mass market. But it seems that there is a small revolution taking place, where some designer brands are changing the game by creating enjoyable and easy to wear creations with more than just a little hint of ingenuity. We’ve seen it from Bottega Veneta, we’ve seen it from Prada and we’ve seen it from Maison Martin Margiela. Now we’re seeing it from Italian fashion brand Marni.
Marni Eau de Parfum is the brand’s first fragrance outing and they are in safe hands, having picked esteemed perfumer Daniela Andrier (Prada Infusion d’Iris & Candy and Maison Martin Margiela Untitiled) to pen the project. The fragrance intends to capture the playful spirit of Marni’s fashion and is described as “the opposite of the standard concept of femininity”, a description that fills this fragrance gender-bending nerd’s heart with nothing but joy.
I make no bones about the fact that Thierry Mugler is one of my all-time favourite perfume brands. Their signature perfumes – Angel, Alien, Womanity, Cologne and A*Men – all have a very special place in my collection and are so befitting of the style of perfume I love, they almost feel as if they were created for me – although I am entirely aware that they were not.
Once a year Mugler treats us all to a special collection of fragrances – four unique takes on their existing signature fragrances. The familiar accords of these perfumes are twisted and remixed to include an ‘enhancer’ that presents them in an entirely new light. Over the last few years the likes of Angel et al have been reshaped by leather and gourmet ingredients to name just a few.
This year’s collection – ‘Les Liqueurs de Parfums‘ – sees the famous Mugler fragrances imbued with equally well-known liqueurs and is a sidestep for the brand, having already released alcohol-inspired versions of Angel, Alien and A*Men in 2009. The difference with this collection, however is that the wooden casks each fragrance has been aged in were warmed up and toasted to add a brand new facet to these boozy ‘fumes.
Eau d’Italie really have it made as a brand. I mean, creating fragrances inspired by their native Italy, specifically the phenomenally gorgeous coastal town of Positano (where they own and run the famous Le Sirenuse hotel), really gives them a lot of beauty to work with. Besides, the Italian way of life is incredibly attractive, one can’t help but want to own a part of that, even if it just an olfactory representation.
For their tenth perfume – ‘Acqua Decima’ (Tenth Water), Eau d’Italie have roped in the talents of perfumer Alberto Morillas (Mugler Cologne, Penhaligon’s Iris Prima and Salvador Dalí Parfum de Toilette) to create a perfume that celebrates “the spirit of Italy itself”. The result is a perfume that, as Eau d’Italie puts it; “reflects the sunniest feelings we have inside” but also perfectly captures a way of life in a bottle.
Dries van Noten is a belgian fashion designer described aptly by the New York Times as “one of fashion’s most cerebral designers”. Frédéric Malle is a fragrant curator who collects perfumers, allows them to take centre stage and gives them the creative freedom they need to shine.
Although both men come from different worlds they share a thirst for innovation and appreciation of beauty in all forms so it is no surprise that these two creative forces would collide. Their collaborative efforts have seen the birth of a truly new fragrance, one that positively shows that when done right there is nothing better than when perfume meets fashion.
The fragrance they have created with perfume Bruno Jovanovic is the first in Malle’s new line of fragrances; ‘by Frédéric Malle’. Intended as an “olfactory portrait of the world of Dries van Noten”, the fragrance captures the essence of erudite fashion in a high-art manner whilst feeling distinctly ready-to-wear.