“For women who dream with their eyes wide open and see stars in daylight.”
Yesterday I shared the news that Hermès are launching a limited collector’s edition bottle for Eau des Merveilles to celebrate its 10th anniversary. This got me thinking about the scent itself and the fact that I had never taken the time to sit down and review it in full – a truth that is absolutely criminal seeing as it is one of my all-time favourites. So today, rather than focusing on something ‘brand new’, I’d like to give a brief nod to a beautiful fragrance on its 10th birthday.
Eau des Merveilles was created for Hermès by perfumers Nathalie Feisthauer (Gardénia Pétale and Putain des Palaces) and Ralf Schweiger (Fils de Dieu, The Afternoon of a Faun and Cédrat Enivrant) in 2004 as a topsy-turvy perfume that displays no top, middle and base notes, instead opting for an “unusual revolving structure” consisting of three accords; “The Spirit of Wood”, “The Memory of the Ocean” and “The Sparkle of a Constellation”. The result is something entirely unconventional, yet incredibly familiar, evoking the feel of a well-know melody caught on the breeze – recognisable, yes, but difficult to identify.
Since its launch, Eau des Merveilles has been through the Hermès flanker-mill a number of times. To date, the family consists of; an Extrait version (Parfum des Merveilles), a richer and more gourmand interpretation (Elixir des Merveilles), a version that displays more transparency (Eau Claire des Merveilles) and even one flanker that is full of edible amber (L’Ambre des Merveilles). As with all things Hermès, these familial fragrances are all brilliantly executed, but it is the original that remains the most striking and even ten years down the line, Eau des Merveilles is still the star of the collection.
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.
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 TrèsFraîche’ -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.”
It’s a strange paradox that the king of non-mainstream perfumery’s most divisive fragrances are those that are the least unusual – the L’Eau series. This is evidenced by the fact that there was practically a public outcry when Lutens launched his first ‘eau’. Die hard perfume nuts were found weeping in the street, bell jars were burned and bottles upon bottles of Ambre Sultan were smashed in moments of despair.
OK, I accept that I may have dramatised the situation a bit there but the truth is that many were disheartened that Serge Lutens, the man behind so many of perfumery’s modern greats, was going against his own grain by releasing anti-perfumes that were evocative of cold water and clean linen as opposed to life’s darker and more dangerous aspects. But people need worry not, both perfumes in the collection so far (L’Eau and L’Eau Froide) have turned out to be pretty decent, acting as a welcome change from Lutens’ usual oeuvre and showing how clean fragrances really should be done.
The latest perfume to be added to the L’Eau collection is ‘Laine de Verre‘. Taking its name from everyone’s favourite mode of loft installation – fibreglass – this new L’Eau penned by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake is as unusual as it is fresh and relaxed. Serge Lutens, in his usually riddle-filled way, states that the perfume is inspired by “complementary opposites” , elaborating further that the conflict is himself and the masculine and feminine. With that in mind, it’ll be no surprise that Lain de Verre is a genderless, inhuman fragrance that piques interest.
“With Laine de Verre, it is the metal which, physically, takes shape within its fragrance…” 
When I first started exploring the world of perfume I only really had time for scents that were loud, proud and downright fabulous. But now, as I get older and my approach to perfume is increasingly more seasoned, I find myself appreciating the art of subtlety and the application of a ‘dab hand’. Now that’s not to say that I no longer enjoy scents that are loud, attention-grabbing, weird and even confrontational, but it does mean that a perfume doesn’t have to possess these characteristics for me to sit up and pay attention. In short: as long as it smells good it’s on my radar!
One particular genre this shift in focus has allowed me to appreciate is cologne. When done right, colognes and citrus scents can be infinitely beautifully as well as having the added benefits of being refreshing, undemanding and thirst quenching. French perfume house Atelier Cologne is one brand that gets the idea of colognes spot on, having created the ‘Cologne Absolue’ – concentrated colognes that “celebrates the elegance of citruses” and possess the perfect trifecta of; longevity, freshness and intensity.
The latest addition to Atelier Cologne’s ‘Collection Originale’ is Cédrat Enivrant (‘Intoxicating Citrus’) – a cologne that takes inspiration from the French 75 cocktail and merges the world of perfume and mixology in a haze of mouthwatering citrus. Created by perfumer Ralf Schweiger (Frederic Malle’s Lipstick Rose and Etat Libre d’Orange’s Fils de Dieu and The Afternoon of a Faun) in a Cologne Absolue concentration of 15%, Cédrant Enivrant is described by the brand as being for lovers of “lemon and gin notes”. Count me in as one of those!
“As the sun set on the beach, they were all together again. Full of emotions, they could not stop talking. Had it really been so long? They shared many memories and another round of French 75s with laugher and tears in their eyes. No one wanted the night to end. As the sun rose, it was a sparkling moment of absolue friendship.”
Tis the last day of Movember and so ends a month of mighty moustache cultivation and manly celebrations. More importantly than the mo-growing and showcasing of masculine fragrances however, is the money raised for an important cause that supports the research and awareness of men’s health issues. This month I have raised £207 for Movember and my team – #TeamPenhaligons – have raised a staggering £2,000, with the total continuing to rise. [On that note, should you wish to make a donation, please do so here]
In tribute to my awesome Mo Bros and Mo Sisters in #TeamPenhaligons and as a final nod to the masculine fragrances of Movember, today I’m reviewing one of my favourite masculine scents from Penhaligon’s, the most quintessentially British of perfume brands. That scent is Extract of Limes, andwhilst it technically counts as a unisex scent (I’m allowed to cheat a little) I definitely feel that it is one of Penhaligon’s most enjoyable fragrances and is a great scent for dapper and fashionable gents to wear.
Originally launched in 1963 and currently residing within Penhaligon’s Anthology Collection, Extract of Limes is a fusion of mouthwatering citrus and clean floral notes that is both bracing and surprisingly contemporary. Having been resurrected in 2009 by perfumer Mike Parrott, this lime-centric scent is one of the more overlooked scents in the brand’s stable, but it’s also one of the most delectable and is very much worth a sniff for anyone who wants a unique citrus fragrance.
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.
There are some niche brands out there that just get it – they know how to offer interesting, well-crafted perfumes that are both easily wearable and suitably intellectually stimulating. Maison Francis Kurkdjian is one of such brand, and having thoroughly explored each and every corner of this ‘maison’ I can honestly say that I’m yet to come across a single dud.
This, of course, is no surprise seeing as the patriarch of the Maison is none other than venerable perfume Francis Kurkdjian. At a recent Perfume Lovers London event Kurkdjian said that it’s the stories behind the scents that make them what they are, musing that Shalimar wouldn’t be Shalimar without its name and that scents cannot me detached from the names they are bestowed. Perhaps this is why his brand is so enjoyable – each scent tells a story.
“It was one afternoon on Formentera, in the Balearic Islands, that the idea of Aqua Vitae came to Francis Kurkdjian. Riding an old motorbike, taking it slowly in view of the extreme heat, the air on his face was deliciously cool. The sun intensified the fragrances of nature around him. Aqua Vitae, the water of life, when life is quite simply beautiful, an extremely sensitive sensuality enveloped with an uncontained freshness.”
His latest perfume – Aqua Vitae – tells the story of “the space between us” and takes its name from the water of vitality. Created to evoke “a magic breath” and “the shiver of pleasure on the back of the neck before something wonderful occurs” Aqua Vitae is a fragrance that casts a beautiful golden light, exuding serenity and peace.
As a fashion brand I have the greatest respect for Versace (admittedly less-so with Donatella at the helm) – they know how to make gaudy look glamorous and are at their very best when they are being as showy as possible. As a perfume brand Versace is less attractive, again their older stuff is good (I’ll always have a soft spot for Blue Jeans and Versace Woman, and Blonde is pretty awesome) but their newer stuff is very much lacklustre at best.
So it was with mixed expectations that I approached the brand’s latest masculine offering ‘Eros’. On the surface Eros appears to have everything you would want in a Versace fragrance – tacky bottle (it’s positively wonderful in its tackiness), ridiculous, over-the-top advertising (see here) and a Tanorexic muscly adonis fronting the whole thing – but as we all know in the world of fragrance, appearances can be deceiving.
Eros takes its name from Greek mythology, specifically the Greek God of Love. Created by perfumer Aurélien Guichard (Bond No 9 Chinatown and all of the new Robert Piguet fragrances and re-issues) Eros is described by Donatella Versace as being for “a man who is own master and who defends his own ideas and goals. He is a hero.” We know exactly what Donatella’s idea of a hero looks like but what does he smell like?
Despite coming to the Maison Francis Kurkdjian party a little later than mostI can safely say that I am pretty much hooked. Like many I have admired perfumer Francis Kurkdjian from afar, appreciating and enjoying his mainstream creations for designer brands such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior and Elie Saab, but it is his Maison with its ‘scented lifestyle’ approach that truly cements M. Kurkdjian as a true talent.
Kurkdjian says of his line: “The range is like creating a wardrobe. You go from casual to evening to couture. And in my vision, what’s missing is a daily ready-to-wear perfume”  and with his latest feminine and masculine duo ‘Amyris’ Kurkdjian has filled this void with two suitably pret-a-porter perfumes for the everyday guy and gal on the go.
“Its head is in Jamaica, and its heart in Florence. The Amyris duo evolves somewhere between the flamboyance of the sun and the vibration of the earth.” 
Both Amyris scents are centred around notes of Jamaican Amyris (the Jamaican tree which exudes elemi) and Iris from Florence. Each feels like an extension of Kurkdjian’s designer work taken to a niche level of quality where “instant hit” style of mainstream fragrances is traded for the slow burning love of niche perfumery.