I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again: I’m a big fan of Jo Malone London. To me, they do what they do very well and what they do is create easy wearing fragrances that feel comfortable both on the skin and in the home. Sure, they’re not pushing the known boundaries of olfaction, but they often add a contemporary and eccentric twist to their fragrances, taking the familiar and making it novel. Most importantly though, Jo Malone London fragrances tick the box that should be first and foremost on every perfume lover’s priority list: they smell good.
Seeing as I enjoy the brand so much, it’s understandable that it was with both excitement and trepidation that I uncorked my sample of JML’s latest scent ‘Basil & Neroli‘. Why? Well, they’ve been on a bit of winning streak lately. Last year’s Mimosa & Cardamom was a triumph – one that has crept its way into my top ten fragrances of all time (quite an accolade, if I do say so myself), not to mention the fact their recent additions to the Cologne Intense series, specifically Incense & Cedrat and Orris & Sandalwood, have also been exceptionally good, and quite unique. So yes, I wondered whether Basil & Neroli would be the one to break this streak or whether it would be yet another success. You’ll have to read on to find out the answer…
Basil & Neroli was created by perfumer Anne Flipo, the nose behind L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Chasse Aux Papillons and Jo Malone London’s Herb Garden Collection. She describes the fragrance as “a fresh, sophisticated, sensual floral with green facets” adding that it is “stunning in its simplicity”. The brand however, calls it a “London lark”, positioning Basil & Neroli as something much more fun, playful and quintessentially British. Whether it be refined or rowdy, what’s for sure is that Basil & Neroli is a fragrance created in the Jo Malone London school of thinking, meaning that it serves up an unusual twist on two familiar ingredients, juxtaposing the savoury & the sweet, and the green & the white.
It’s spring, which means that it’s Aqua Allegoria season! I always enjoy Guerlain’s mini-line of simplistic, nature inspired fragrant ditties because they are easy breezy wears that are such fun in the summer. They showcase fruits and flowers in an intelligent and high quality manner but with a sense of style and fun. This year, the mainstream AA is Pera Granita – a sweet little daydream that feels more like a scoop of ice cold pear sorbet than it does a fragrance. Click here to head on over to Escentual to read my review in full.
Thierry Mugler’s annual reimagining of their flagship masculine fragrance, A*Men (the counterpart to the iconic Angel) is pretty much a tradition at this point. Each and every year the brand treats us to the signature of Angel Men zhuzzed up into something new and exciting. So far, we’ve seen our mate, A*Men; smoke tobacco (Pure Havane), drink whisky (Pure Malt), chase some chilli (A*Men Le Goût du Parfum) and even dabble in the world of lumberjackery (Pure Wood). The A*Men family is made up of a bunch of fraternal twins that all have a different sense of style – and what a great bunch they are.
For 2015, Mugler is doing something a little bit different with A*Men by putting it into a citrus setting. The bottle has been dyed a fabulous shade of neon orange, as has the fragrance for that matter. This new edition (penned by Jacques Huclier and Quentin Bisch) is entitled A*Men Ultra Zest, and as the name would suggest, it focuses on an array of mouthwatering citrus notes to accentuate A*Men’s cosmic cocktail of gourmand treats. Unlike many other citrus fragrances, Ultra Zest is bold and daring. What else could we expect from Mugler?
“A*Men brings you a new twist on the original: Ultra Zest. Shaken, not stirred, this new male fragrance will tantalise the senses as it burst with fresh, citrus, spicy and woody notes. This refreshing cocktail dares you to stand out from the crowd, be bold and go where most won’t dare to go”
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.
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”
Niche cologne brand, Atelier Cologne, seems to have mastered the world of citrus notes. Often seen as the most perky and revitalising notes in perfumery, citrus notes are as enjoyable as they are temperamental, with the idea of a photorealistic citrus painting that is both long lasting and realistic appearing as somewhat of an elusive enigma. Atelier Cologne proves that this ideal isn’t unobtainable, and they offer a whole host of ‘Cologne Absolues’ (colognes in pure parfum strength) that display dazzling, delicious and decidedly good citrus notes.
Out of all of their offerings, last year’s Cédrat Enivrant really struck me as an idealised cologne. It had everything one expects and hopes for from the genre – freshness, lightness and tartness – with the added bonus of strength and longevity. Cédrat Enivrant is the best example of Atelier Cologne’s penchant for modernising and improving the traditional eau de cologne, and it’s a theme they have continued with the launch of Pomélo Paradis, their latest scent, and the final edition in their Collection Originale.
According to the brand, Pomélo Paradis“marks the inevitable encounter between a man and a woman always destined to be together”. This new “neo-cologne” also marks the brand’s fifth anniversary too, and they’re celebrating with a super-fresh, super-sweet and super-clean taken on the bright, and dazzling citrus tones of pomelo. In the words of Atelier Cologne, Pomélo Paradis “celebrates the elegance of citruses”, and I can’t put it any simpler than that.
“Was he a fool to drive all night just for a chance to see her? Perhaps it was adrenaline and the lack of sleep, but as he pictured moments they had been together, the word destiny stuck in his mind. The coral sunrise burned bright and he drove faster. There was no choice but to see her again.”
“The sickness of making flankers every five minutes is very upsetting, but if I don’t want to get kicked out for not doing my job, I have to do it”
– Thierry Wasser ¹
Thierry Wasser, in-house perfumer at Guerlain, recently likened the penchant brands have for creating numerous flankers to a “sickness” and when looking at the numerous incarnatons of the house’s flagship fragrance, Shalimar, it’s easy to see why. In the last five years we’ve seen seven, that’s right, seven new Shalimar flankers ranging from the sublime Parfum Initial and Ode à la Vanille to the less interesting Parfum Initial L’Eau, and on occasions the brand has stretched the Shalimar association pretty thin.
With their latest flanker, Shalimar Souffle de Parfum, the link has become so emaciated it may have finally snapped. Sniffing the flanker, it’s pretty difficult to pick out exactly how the two fragrances are alike. Shalimar is a grand dame of the oriental world, showcasing bubbling bergamot, smoky-sweet vanilla powder and tons of heavy resins. Souffle de Parfum on the other hand is, well, the complete opposite of that. It may not be worthy of the Shalimar name, but does that mean that it’s a bad fragrance?
Guerlain describe Souffle de Parfum as a “gently perfumed caress” ² and a “breath of extreme sensuality” ², with the ‘Souffle’ here referring to the French word for breath, as opposed to anything culinary-related. It has been designed to celebrate the lighter facets of Shalimar, specifically focus on the shining citrus that famously graces the Oriental Queen’s top notes, and the plush vanilla that sits at her core. In that respect, Souffle de Parfum succeeds, merging these two themes together to create something that may, or may not be Shalimar, depending on how one looks at it.
If there is any pop icon that has suffered badly from over exposure, it’s Lady Gaga. Bursting onto the scene, in a haze of wild couture, progressive synths and disco sticks, she has quickly gone from the wild child hailed as the new Madonna, to a spectacular fall from pop grace (let’s not talk about ARTPOP…) straight into the arms of a lacklustre jazz album. Now, I’m positive that Gaga will get back on her feet soon enough, after all she is a talented songwriter, singer and musician, not to mention a pop visionary that pushes the boundaries and champions the underdog. I have every faith in her continued success, she just needs to take some time out and reevaluate.
Anyway, on to perfume. As you will be aware, Lady Gaga released her first perfume, Fame in 2012. The fragrance launched with about as much fanfare as the singer’s career did, if not more, and it sold like hot cakes, despite the fact that, in my humble opinion it was all style over substance. A visual masterpiece but an olfactory dud, to say the least. This autumn, Gaga has launched her second fragrance, Eau de Gaga and it would be safe to say that the entire mood of the scent, and its launch has shifted somewhat. Gone are the lavish launch parties and ridiculously over the top tv campaigns, and in with a more paired back approach to vision and smell.
Eau de Gaga is billed as a unisex fragrance that has been created for “the adventurous woman and the man who loves her”, and that’s it, there appears to be absolutely no gimmicks associated with the scent – no special black liquid that sprays clear, no alleged semen note, nothing. So Eau de Gaga is just a unisex fragrance from a fresh-faced Lady Gaga who appears to be comfortable in her own skin, despite the failures or successes of her current standing as pop’s new darling.
It’s impossible to look at TOY, the latest fragrance from Italian fashion brand, Moschino and not smile. I mean, the perfume is packaged inside a cuddly little teddy bear, so one’s initial encounter with the fragrance will usually involve the utterance of noises such as “aww” and “squee” and cries of “OH. MY. GOD. IT’S. SO. BLOOMING. CUTE” and “IT’SSOFLUFFYI’MGONNA’DIE”. It is after all, incredibly cute and that gorgeous little face is adorably cheeky, and impossible to resist.
TOY is the brainchild of Moschino’s Creative Director, Jeremy Scott, who has worked with the likes or Rihanna, Katy Perry, Björk, Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga, just to name a small sample of the upper echelon of pop divas that he has collaborated with. The scent is being positioned by the brand as a “revolutionary product launch” that offers “a completely innovative way to package, show and sell fragrance”, posing the question whether this bear is a perfume or a toy. It also serves as a nice nod back to Moschino’s founder, Franco Moschino, who famously used stuffed animals on garments in his 1988 Fall-Winter collection.
Created by perfumer Alexandra Kosinski (Etat Libre d’Orange Cologne), TOY displays woody, floral and citrus notes that are intended to be evocative of the bear’s forest home. Whether TOY is exactly that, a toy, or a perfume, or a teddy bear, or all of the above depends on how you approach it. What cannot be denied however, is that this is an attention-grabbing launch that breathes new life into the world of Moschino parfums, and an incredibly cute one at that.
“From the depths of the wild, stuffed animal kingdom comes TOY, Moschino’s latest fragrance. Conceived by Moschino Creative Director Jeremy Scott, TOY smashes every fragrance preconception to bits, boldly redrawing its form, function and fabulousness.”
Recently, whilst putting together my guide to masculine fragrance for MANFACE, I realised that I quite like manly perfumes. This may not sound like much of a revelation, I am a man after all (well, at least I was last time I checked), and it would therefore make sense that I was a fan of those fragrances which sit on the masculine side of the aisle, but the truth is that I’ve always thought I found solace in the world of feminine perfumery. That said, a quick look at the number of masculine offerings in my list favourite fragrances contradicts this, so when it comes down to it, I guess my love for perfume spans all gender barriers.
The problem I have with masculine perfumery is that is often boring and clichéd. As a general rule of thumb, us gents are less adventurous with perfume. Add this to the fact that many mainstream masculine fragrances are dull, synthetic and obnoxious, and you don’t exactly have a recipe for success. This isn’t always the case though, and as you’ll see in my masculine fragrance guide (link above), there are more than a good few masculines out there that are generally interesting and beautiful, and I always feel a sense of joy when I encounter a new fragrance for men that simply smells very good.
One decent (and recent) example is ‘WILD’, the latest fragrance from fashion brand DSquared². Created by perfumers Daphné Bugey and Annick Menardo, WILD is a woody aromatic fragrance that is described by the brand as being “an overwhelming perfume that announces a free and wild soul”. Housed within the fetishistic confines of a leather-strapped bottle, and accompanied by a provocative ad campaign shot by fashion photographer, Stephen Klein (a NSFW example can be seen below the jump), WILD certainly makes a statement – one that surprisingly focuses on the idea of freedom, rather than sexual provocation.
“For us fragrance has an emotional connection to who we are, it uncovers a long-held desire or dream, which is why the concept of WILD has such an intrinsic link to us and the ideaology of DSquared2. The ultimate authentic expression of self is to live with complete freedom of speech and mind – we are fascinated with this concept, especially in today’s society.”