In the somewhat limited lexicon of perfume description, one relies quite heavily on the concept of character when attempting to translate odour into words. I’ll often find myself personifying a fragrance, bringing in characters from popular culture to best describe the spirit of a scent. Heck, I’ve even done it the other way round and have paired scents with famous characters. Perfume can convey the attitude, emotion and style of a character – characters that resonate with us and allow us to identify with a perfume. These character-filled scents are the ones that lead us to spritz something on and declare it “just so me”.
St Giles is an exciting new brand that understands the character of perfume. So much so, in fact, that their debut collection consists of five personalities in olfactory form. From the mind of Michael Donovan, a luxury PR legend, St Giles brings us The Tycoon, The Actress, The Mechanic, The Stylist, and the subject of today’s review: The Writer. These five fragrances were created to “stimulate and amplify the many different aspects of our character” celebrating “the parts that make us who we are, fusing the reality and the fantasy”. They are five characters one wants to get to know – each translated into perfume form by the incomparable Bertrand Duchaufour – and whilst they are all beautiful, The Writer is the standout. So let’s sniff.
From novels to newspapers, poetry to periodicals, online content to cultural commentaries on social media, the written word has the greatest capacity to effect change. This fragrance, inspired by the scribes who enrich our lives, is designed to aid concentration and summon the muse.
Top: Ginger, Rosemary Absolute, Aldehydes and Clary Sage
Heart: Leather and Frankincense
Base: Castoreum Absolute, Sandalwood, Cedarwood and Driftwood
How Does it Smell?
The Writer exists at the tension point created by rosemary and frankincense. The rosemary is used not only for its distinct odour, but also for its concentration-boosting properties (us writers do need focus after all). It opens sharp and green, with a savoury, salty quality that is accented by the mineral crackle of black pepper. Aldehydes add a spray-coated sheen that sits atop the rosemary as a glowing layer, as opposed to the signature fizz of the note. Like all good writing, and writers for the matter, The Writer gets you hooked right from the very start.
Frankincense is the most dominant note and it is put to absolutely glorious use in The Writer. It is cool and silvery, with a menthol touch that brings to mind the idea of floating plumes of ice cold smoke with just a hint of green to their tone. It’s a rather luminous take on the note and whilst it has an icy, aloof nature upon first impact, it warms with time and one gets the impression of soft backlighting that powers the amber glow of the incense. The leather in the heart works merely as a supporting act, amplifying the warmth and the saltier aspects, but also throwing in a touch of intimate sweetness for good measure. You can’t beat a bit of intimacy really, can you?
The silver thread of incense carries all the way through but as The Writer develops, it becomes much woodier. The concentration-boosting earlier elements are replaced by smooth, soothing sandalwood, cedarwood and driftwood, perhaps to give the brain a bit of a rest. The lasting impression is of textured wood strips in shades of grey and black, dusted with a glittery sprinkling of incense, providing the depth, contrast and tension to allow the signature accords of rosemary and incense to sing.
The Writer is utterly stunning and it has fast become my favourite incense fragrance (up there with Avignon by Comme des Garçons and Copal Azur by Aedes des Venustas – both by Bertrand, funnily enough!) due largely to its cool, silveriness. It fits the character of a writer so well because it boasts an aloof level of introspection – a clarity and thoughtfulness that lends itself well to the creative mind. I wear it and feel so comfortable in it and so at home in the herbaceous, silvery coolness, it’s almost as if it was a bespoke creation. If however, The Writer does not resonate with you in the way it has done so symbiotically with me, then fear ye not, it may just be that The Tycoon, The Actress, The Mechanic or The Stylist suits you better.
The Writer is available from Selfridge’s in 100ml Eau de Parfum for £130.
Sample, notes and quotes via St. Giles. Images are my own.