Perfume, like fashion, follows trends and these trends often relate to particular styles of perfumery or even individual notes. We very often see the same genus of perfumes coming on to the market at any one time, for instance fruity florals are everywhere at the moment and I challenge you to find 10 perfumes released in the last year that don’t contain pink pepper. But as with trends in fashion, things in the world of perfumery don’t last long before tastes change once again and a new style comes along. We are fickle creatures after all.
The problem with trends is that they very quickly become boring, and this has very much been the case with oud. Everyone has an oud, everybody from Guerlain to Creed, even Ferrari has one… (no, I’m not joking). A quick search of the Basenotes Fragrance Directory shows that there are in fact 199 fragrances containing the word oud in the title and a 148 which list the noble rot as a note. One can easily come to the conclusion that there are definitely too many ouds and it is easy to become overwhelmed by and even bored with the trend.
Of course, just because there are a lot of ouds on the market doesn’t mean that there isn’t still room for ingenuity and excellent craft, in fact it is quite the opposite, there are some really good ouds out there (just see The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Oud). Last year Mona di Orio created Oud, a wonderfully unique take on oud, and this year Francis Kurkdjian does the same, and his offering could not be more unique.
OUD is the latest perfume to join the Maison Francis Kurkdjian lineup and it really is something very special. Francis Kurkdjian says of his oud offering: “My oud belongs to a marble palace engraved with gold, set under a dark-blue-star-studded night. It is the fine sand of the capricious sand dune, a fragrant harmattan in the silence of the desert.” Where most ouds are coloured in deep reds or rich browns, Kurkdjian’s is hued a pure cerulean blue and right from the beginning this OUD makes it clear that it is not your typical oud perfume.
“I love a perfume that makes me smile – Fils de Dieu brings the smiles, and plenty of them”
Despite their often hyper-sexed and occasionally misdirected marketing techniques, Etat Libre d’Orange are one of the most solid niche brands out there. They offer a line of well made, interesting, unusual and affordable fragrances that simply cannot be matched. The Etat Libre d’Orange war cry is “Parfum est mort, vive le parfum” (“perfume is dead, long live perfume”) and they are going a very long way to resurrect the concept of fun into the landscape of modern perfumery, a landscape that can so often become devoid of any delight.
I have said many times before that I am a self-proclaimed Etat Libre d’Orange fanboy, I simply cannot help it, I find their compositions to be filled with humour, occasional, nay regular genius, surprise and wonder. Each one is an essay in pushing the boundaries of perfume, turning familiar genres on their heads and firmly sticking two figures up at the bland, the trite and the cheap.
Fils de Dieu or ‘Fils de Dieu Du Riz et Des Agrumes’ (Son of God of Rice and Citrus Fruits) to use its full name is one of two latest releases from everyone’s favourite French olfactory freedom fighters, the other being Bijou Romantique. It was created by Ralf Schwieger and the concept behind it is interesting to say the least. Also available under the more controversial name of ‘Philippine Houseboy’, Fils de Dieu “is the golden eye that reflects beauty and conflict, rapture and pain. It is an emotional fragrance that requires a sympathetic connection between the server and the served, the giver and the taker, and the willingness to exchange roles.” 
In 2010 the king of dark, brooding orientals and baroque florals, Serge Lutens, decided to launch an ‘anti-perfume’, a perfume that was designed to give you “a lasting sensation of wearing a ‘clean’ scent” . Cue a huge outcry from the perfume community and hardcore Lutens fanboys (and girls); “He’s doing WHAT?! A clean scent?! Looks like Uncle Serge has finally lost it” they said.
Aristotle said “There is no great genius without a mixture of madness” and It is clear to me that Uncle Serge hasn’t lost it, instead it seems that he has quite the sense of humour. I can just see him sat in his office above his flagship boutique in the Palais Royal, chuckling away at the thought of the die-hard Lutenites trying L’Eau for the very first time. In my head he utters Miranda Hart’s catchphrase “such fun” as he tries to stifle his giggles.
This year Lutens has decided to take the joke that little bit further with the addition of L’Eau Froide, and as the name suggests, this time the water he is playing around with is is cold. Where L’Eau is described as a new kind of clean, L’Eau Froide is “Some fresh air in the rusty old water pipes.”  I told you he had a sense of humour! L’Eau was an essay in cleanliness and purity but L’Eau Froide is an essay in austerity and is just as gothic and Lutensien as you would hope it to be.
The appointment of Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius as the new face of Mugler’s flagship masculine fragrance A*Men last year marked a new chapter in the brand’s superhero saga. Pistorious plays the part of the ‘Bionic Fawn’ and he perfectly embodies the Muglerian style of high-energy futurism taken to the limit.
Thierry Mugler is known for bold statements and the use of a Paralympian, who just happens to be the hottest name in sport right now, is an encouraging display of diversity from a major brand. If only others would follow suit! Pistorius is an inspiring person and an inspired choice for the brand. He very much deserves his place alongside the likes of Jerry Hall, Eva Mendes and Naomi Watts as a citizen of Planet Mugler.
For 2012, the year of the London Olympic Games, Pistorius reprises his role of the Mugler man for the brand’s latest fragrance ‘A*Men Pure Shot’. A*Men Pure Shot, created by Jacques Huclier, is the latest limited edition flanker of the original A*Men which was released in 1996. It follows Pure Coffee, Pure Malt, Pure Havane and A*Men Le Goût de Parfum in the A*Men series, and it’s fair to say that it is the most unique and surprising incarnation of A*Men so far.
Inspired by Oscar Pistorious, Mugler’s “modern day hero”, Pure Shot is Mugler’s entry into the plethora of Olympic-themed sport fragrances that we’re going to see this year. But as we know, Mugler does things a little bit differently and has to be given Kudos for not including ‘sport’ in the name, and for actually creating a sport-themed fragrance that doesn’t smell bland or cheap. Mugler describes Pure Shot as “a performance booster for seekers of strong, inspiring scents”.
Guerlain is one of my favourite perfume houses, heck it may be most people’s favourite perfume house, and they’ve certainly had their up’s and down’s over the years. But despite many blips, discontinuations and the odd controversy, things definitely seem to be looking up over at Maison Guerlain. One of the smartest moves they have made in recent times is snatch-up the very talented Thierry Wasser for their in-house perfumer.
Since joining Guerlain, M. Wasser has created; two new major feminines, one major masculine, a new cologne and several flankers, limited editions and exclusives. He has tinkered with Guerlain’s heritage whilst adding his own contemporary stamp for the future.
February sees the release of two new flankers signed by M. Wasser; Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau and Homme L’Eau Boisée, and as with everything he has done since he started with Guerlain (OK maybe not everything) they are top notch. ‘L’Eau’ very much seems to be the fashion at Guerlain at the moment, but to write these two new editions of as simply lighter, watered down versions of the originals would be a grave mistake.
“Refreshing as a cocktail, sexy as a Brazilian dance.” 
I was quite late to the L’Artisan Parfumeur party. I remember trying three of their most popular scents (Tea For Two, Patchouli Patch and Voleur de Roses) way back when I first started getting into the world of perfume. I didn’t enjoy them at all and the line wasn’t too easy to find in the UK, so in my ignorance I ignored the line for quite a while. What a mistake that was.
Since the opening of their Covent Garden store I have had the opportunity to revisit the L’Artisan Parfumeur line and this time with much more encouraging results. I now own and love two (Traversée du Bosphore and Vanille Absolument) and I could quite happily add a few more (Al Oudh, Dzing! and L’Eau d’Ambree Extreme) to my collection. Now that I have made friends with the line, a new release is always exciting news and I very much looked forward to trying Batucada.
Batucada is the latest addition to L’Artisan Parfumeur’s ‘Les Voyages Exotiques’ line and “is a celebration of contemporary Brazil in a vibrant, joyful and sensual perfume, inspired by the effervescence and rhythm of Rio – Batucada is the name of a percussive style of samba music” . Created by two perfumers; Karine Vinchon in Grasse and Elisabeth Maier in São Paolo, Batacuda is designed to be a vivacious, sparkling cocktail evocative of the spirit of the streets of Latin America.
“Theseus sits within that genre of confident and comfortable masculine fragrances that feel like they could be worn with the most casual or the smartest of clothing.”
Lorenzo Villoresi, the fragrance house by the Italian perfumer of the same name, is a brand that I have to admit that I haven’t had a great deal of exposure to. My experience with the house extends to a quite disastrous encounter with their most popular fragrance – Teint de Neige, a baby powder mess that really isn’t me at all. But, I won’t let one bad experience taint my idea of a brand, and I have heard positive things about the rest of the line, so it is with great interest that I try their latest release – Theseus.
Theseus, which takes it’s name from Greek mythology (he was the dude that killed the Minotaur), is the latest addition to Lorenzo Villoresi’s ‘Fantasy Fragrances’, a collection consisting of fragrances which “recall exotic and dreaming worlds, atmospheres and landscapes.” Theseus is described as:
“A fresh, radiant, sunny fragrance, evocative of ancient adventures over strange countries and seas, in the search of mythological lands. An elegant fragrance, noble and timeless, deep and velvety, full of rare, intense and precious scents. Citrus fruits, herbs, spices and mysterious resins. The seductive aroma of ancient wood and flowers, overflowing with delicate fragrances.”
“A brief history of perfume, told through five distinct fragrances. From lost worlds, along ancient silk and spice routes to a brave new world.” 
We’ve seen it many times before, a mainstream house releasing a series of fragrances based around a single concept. Sometimes it works really well (see Guerlain’s L’Art et la Matiére line or Chanel’s Les Exclusifs) and sometimes it fails epically (see Dolce & Gabanna’s Anthology line).
Usually lines launched with multiple fragrances are a bit hit and miss, they tend to have one or two ‘greats’, more than a couple of average ones and a their fair share of clangers. So it is with trepidation that I approach any new ‘collection’.
I am very familiar with Molton Brown’s line of shower gels, hand creams, hand washes and body products (which I think are generally very good btw) but I have to admit that I’m not overly familiar with their stand-alone fragrances, so this collection could go either way for me.
I’m not a gin drinker, actually scrap that. I wasn’t a gin drinker, but on Tuesday I was coerced (there really wasn’t much coercing going on) into drinking a number of gin cocktails at the bloggers launch for Penhaligon’s new fragrance Juniper Sling. This experience has taught me three things; firstly, Penhaligon’s know how to throw a party, secondly, their gin cocktails are unrivalled and thirdly, gin and fragrance go very well together.
Juniper Sling was created by master perfumer Olivier Cresp (the man that brought Angel into the world) and it is described by Penhaligon’s as “a playful, chilled and mysterious homage to the Bright Young Things of London’s roaring twenties.” Now this may give you the impression that Juniper Sling may be slightly old-fashioned, but this is absolutely not the case, Penhaligon’s have created a modern twist on a classic theme, just look at the bottle with it’s metal bow, a purely modern take on their usual flacon.
Those of you who read my review of the original Bang on Wednesday will know that I found it to be a thoroughly well executed masculine fragrance for the mass market, so you can imagine that I was quite looking forward to Bang’s first flanker; Bang Bang.
The name is amusing, ‘Bang Bang’, I thought; ‘Double the Bang? This must be a more intense version of Bang’, are you with me? Well you may be, but Marc Jacobs isn’t, Bang Bang is described as a ‘refreshing and dynamic’ version of the original.
If the thought of a ‘refreshing and dynamic’ masculine sends you into a dull-perfume induced coma then I promise to wake you at the end of this review.