Perfume as Art – Maison Francis Kurkdjian féminin & masculin Pluriel Perfume Review

Pluriel

“Mirror Image” – féminin Pluriel & masculin Pluriel by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

“Perfume is not art.”

- Francis Kurkdjian

At the recent launch event for Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s latest duo of fragrances there was a lot of discussion around art and its relation to the world of perfume. Kurkdjian, who is ever a frank and fascinating speaker, asserted that perfume is not art because it is created to please consumers and where art is given a value by the market, perfume prices are set by their creators. This isn’t to say that Kurkdjian is belittling perfume by any means, in fact it seems that he takes a purely practical view of the subject, comparing his collection to an olfactory wardrobe, containing a plethora of pieces ranging from the everyday staple of the white T-Shirt (Aqua Universalis) to the more occasionally worn leather trousers (Absolue Pour le Soir).

Also at the event, Art Curator, Karine Giannamore spoke at length about what constitutes a masterpiece, piecing together simplicity, hard work, innovation and emotion, as the key ingredients that create a timeless work of art. Giannamore states that a masterpiece “has to be new [and] has to be original” but also must be “cemented in tradition”. This collision of the innovative and the traditional is exactly what Francis Kurkdjian has played with for his two new fragrances – féminin Pluriel and masculin Pluriel.

“What makes a work of art? A masterpiece? A Timeless work of art? Something so good or beautiful that it cannot be affected by changes in society or fashion.”

- Karine Giannamore

The Pluriel (Plural) duo has been created as a mirror image – two fragrances that perfectly capture the essence of femininity and masculinity, or as the brand puts it; “the eternal feminine and masculine.” With each fragrance, Kurkdjian takes a traditional theme and adds a contemporary twist to create a pair of perfumes that feel thoroughly modern and very much in keeping with his clear and radiant style. For féminin Pluriel and masculin Pluriel, Kurkdjian has crafted two new pieces for his olfactory wardrobe – two fragrant garments that are as modern, chic, timeless and elegant as anything a couturier could construct.

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Smooth Operator – 4160 Tuesdays The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO) Perfume Review

Jamie Dornan

Jamie Dornan – The Sexiest Man on the Planet. Ever (IMHO)

Sex sells, as they say, and the world of perfume is certainly no exception. We are constantly bombarded with hyper-sexualised images of men and women, gently caressing perfume bottles and writhing around in faux wind-machine-assisted ecstasy, all just to spur us to part with cash at our local branch of Debenhams. Some brands go even further and play with the naked form in a deliberately shocking way, like Tom Ford with his verging-on-the-obscene Terry Richardson ad campaign for Tom Ford for Men, for example, or even Yves Saint Laurent and their slightly more tasteful, but still completely full frontal print ad for M7 (both NSFW links courtesy of Mr. Ford’s artistic direction, FYI).

But what makes a perfume sexy? Well, one would think that the answer to this question is entirely subjective, and in reality I think that is most likely to be the case. I imagine our idea of ‘sexiness’ in scent to be similar to the appearance of love potions in the world of Harry Potter (bear with me here), where the smell that each potion exudes is unique to the individual that sniffs it, depending on what they find attractive in a person. To put it another way – one man’s sexy fragrance is another’s olfactory cold shower, and it would be true to say that many supposedly ‘sexy’ scents fail to deliver, whereas the most seductive scents seem to be those that aren’t necessarily billed as such – sexy surprises, if you will.

One fragrance that makes rather bold claims about being ‘hot’ is 4160 Tuesdays’ ‘The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO)‘. Well, that’s what one would think from the name, but in reality this perfume, which was originally created by perfumer Sarah McCartney as a base for her Gin Garden scent and inadvertently named by a Tatler journalist, has a moniker that is served with tongue pressed firmly in cheek. The truth however, is that this fragrance is wonderfully executed, delicious and one of the easiest scents to wear on the planet. Ever.

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Water, Earth and Sky – Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche Perfume Review

Terre d'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche

Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche

I don’t wear masculine fragrances that often but when I do, I like to think that I choose pretty well. One of my all-time favourites is Terre d’Hermès, a glorious olfactory representation of orange-coloured earth created by master perfumer (and Hermès’ nose-in-residence) Jean-Claude Ellena. I’m not the only one to love it either and since its launch way back in 2006 this most modern masculine fragrance has become a cult perfume amongst fragrance lovers and general consumers of the male species alike.

Hermès is a house that is always respectful of its heritage and unlike many brands they have resisted the urge to dilute the Terre d’Hermès signature by releasing flanker-upon-flanker and including the subject of this review they have only revisited the fragrance twice to launch new interpretations, one of which was simply a Parfum concentration. So it’s safe to say that when Hermès do ‘mess’ with their line of fragrances, they do so in a respectful and tasteful manner.

Which leads me nicely on to my subject of today, ‘Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche’ -the latest fragrance in the Terre d’Hermès lineup and a perfume that is billed as a “new crossing of the elements” where the water, sky and earth all meet. It pays homage to Terre d’Hermès but instead of capturing the idea of dry earth, it intends to create the vision of water springing from the soil in a lighter, more lively and refreshing rendition of Jean-Claude Ellena’s phenomenal and undeniably classic masculine.

“Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche is a dot above an i. The line is the man on earth, the dot is his spirit. Inseperable.”

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The Big Smoke – Tom Ford Private Blend London Perfume Review

House of Parliament, Effect of Sunlight, 1903

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.

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Solar Flare – Thierry Mugler Alien Eau Extraordinaire Perfume Review

Alien Eau Extraordinaire

Alien Eau Extraordinaire

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!

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A Hybrid Rose – Parfumerie Générale Isparta PG26 Perfume Review

Parfumerie Generale Isparta 26

Parfumerie Generale Isparta 26

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.”

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Monsieur Mahogany – Huitième Art Monsieur Perfume Review

The Dapper 'Monsieur'

The Dapper ‘Monsieur’

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.

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Jagged Lines – Bottega Veneta Pour Homme Perfume Review

An Outdoorsy Kind of Guy

An Outdoorsy Kind of Guy

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.

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Chapter 2 – Neela Vermeire Ashoka Perfume Review

Neela Vermeire's Fourth Fragrance - Ashoka (Photo: Mike Tassy for Neroli)

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.

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Dances With Roses – Marni Eau de Parfum Perfume Review

Marni Eau de Parfum

Marni Eau de Parfum

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.

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