I have a very high level of respect for the Elie Saab fragrances. Unlike lots of fashion brands that head into the market at this late stage in the game, Elie Saab has a very clear olfactory vision that feels inextricably linked to their design aesthetic. What’s more, the brand has worked solely with one perfumer (the incomparable Francis Kurkdjian) to ensure that their scents all carry the same threads, resulting in a beautiful, luminous style that is undeniably Elie Saab.
In Elie Saab’s Essence Collection, Francis Kurkdjian really gets to stretch his legs and create scents that don’t share the style of Le Parfum, Saab’s signature scent. So far they’ve done wonderful things with oud, rose, gardenia, musk and now, for the latest addition to the collection, two materials get to take centre stage: almond and tonka bean. Essence Nº10: Amande Tonka is a delicious oud to two of perfumery’s most delectable notes and guess what? It’s really tasty….
“Almond essence blends with tonka bean to weave a voluptuous and subtle palette of almond nuances.”
There are many things I appreciate about the By Killian brand but above all I very much enjoy their sense of humour. In a world where fragrance is taken so seriously, to the point of it being almost painful, Killian Hennessy comes along with his cheeky smile to save the day. Kilian’s opulent fragrances are housed within dramatic packaging that verges on over the top (NEVER a bad thing in my book), often boast cheeky names such as Voulez-vous coucher avec Moi, and have also been known to smell like forbidden/addictive substances such as marijuana. Kilian’s world is one of fun where decadence and debauchery are embraced wholeheartedly. So yes, I’m here for By Kilian and their domain is my kind of place to be.
The latest scent to be added to the By Kilian lineup is Black Phantom (created by Perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur) and as far as cheekiness goes, well, Mr Hennessy has gone all out. Where to start? Well, the slogan for the scent is ‘a little party never killed nobody’ and the box, well, the box is quite something! Atop Kilian’s signature black lacquered box sits a skull, rising out of the the lid with a somewhat sarcastic smile. Not to mention the fact that Mr Hennessy has forgone the standard Perfumer/Creative Director mugshot of posing pensively with a series of smelling strips and has instead donned some rather impressive shirt sleeves and has posed rather foppishly with a jet black skull as if it were a crystal ball. It’s a bit Mystic Meg and it’s wonderful.
But what about the fragrance? Well Black Phantom the fragrance has some rather intriguing inspirations, taking its name from “the dusky shade of a pirate galleon” whilst speaking of scent-soaked sails, ghostly spectres, rum-spiked Irish coffee, cyanide and “the eerie clash of spectral cutlasses”. It’s all so ridiculous, entirely fun and really effing cool. As Kilian says “if it’s dirty, kinky, naughty, messy, or just plain wrong, I want it” and we want it too, so bring it on Mr Hennessy!
As you can probably tell by looking at the photographs in this post, I had quite a bit of fun putting this review together, and fun certainly seems to be a central theme at the heart of the fragrance in question. To me, perfume is not something to be taken too seriously it is, after all, a frivolity – a consumer product to be enjoyed. Some brands get this and Juliette Has a Gun is definitely one fragrance house that certainly knows how to have fun with fragrance. Their collection is served with tongue firmly pressed in cheek and they set out to make fabulous fragrance, yes, but also scents that are for vibrant and complex characters. You’ll either get them or you won’t.
MMMM… is the latest launch from Juliette Has a Gun and, as the name suggests, it’s a delectable gourmand of scent, or as the brand calls it “a zero calorie treat”! This is Juliette Has a Gun and brand creator Romano Ricci really having fun. With MMMM… they have brought us a fragrance that is to be enjoyed guilt-free and in excess, for yourself and for those around you. MMMM… is a gourmand that is vivid and a little bit ridiculous but also hugely luxurious. To me, it feels like the kind of thing you could pick up in Ladurée or Pierre Hermé – a couture treat to be enjoyed with an Ispahan and a steaming hot cup of Marie Antoinette tea. MMMM…
MUGLER may only have one masculine fragrance on the market, the astronomically excessive A*Men (or Angel Men as it’s also known), but they’ve certainly made up for a lack of diversity in their male lineup with a prolific number of flankers. Since its launch in 1996, A*Men has been boozed up, sexed up and made to sit down with a hot cup of coffee to recover. It’s a fragrance that lends itself very well to enhancements and MUGLER have been incredibly savvy with their many interpretations of the scent’s chocolate cacophony, always taking its signature and teasing out an entirely new and exciting facet in the way that a good flanker should.
20 years on and the latest olfactory twist in the A*Men lineup is Pure Tonka an “exhilarating fragrance for a man no one can resist” that sees a “searing fusion between the sensuality of tonka beans and the purity of lavender”. The tonka bean is a staple of masculine perfumery due to its high content of coumarin, which is a key part of the fougére accord. It has a vast and complex odour profile that ranges from hay, vanilla and marzipan to sour cherry, liquorice and clove. In the original A*Men, the tonka bean was merely a small cog within a much larger wheel, which also consisted of other moving parts such as; lavender, mint, coffee, patchouli, tar, vanilla and caramel. In A*Men Pure Tonka, the tonka bean is pulled right into the forefront and centre, and the volume is dialled way up to extreme levels to create a MUGLER fragrance that is really quite something to behold, even by their standards.
GUERLAIN’S La Petite Robe Noire has quickly become a part of the fabric of the brand, taking its place next to the likes of icons such as Shalimar,Mitsouko and Samsara, and deservedly so. With LPRN, GUERLAIN took the fruity floral genre and showed everybody else just how it should be done, specifically with fizz, flair and a shedload of fun. The fragrance has been a huge hit, and whilst marketing may have played a big part in this, one cannot deny that La Petite Robe Noire is; a) an excellent fragrance (that fizzy cherry juxtaposed against that smoky black tea is just gorgeous); and b) a GUERLAIN fragrance through and through.
So with success come flankers and GUERLAIN have served us a number of delectable noire treats since LPRN’s launch in 2012 (well it’s mainstream launch, that is, the scent was a boutique exclusive launched in 2009 that was subsequently remixed for the wider market). The latest of which is La Petite Robe Noire Intense, a fragrance that evokes the idea of a breeze billowing though the pleats of a dress as it is transported around the world. That’s right, Miss La Petite Robe Noire is globetrotting and she has packed a brand new dress for her journey. But what does this particular garment smell like? Well, the answer is simple: it smells like fun!
Few things get my pulse racing like a brand spanking new MUGLER launch, even more so if that launch is a spin-off of my all-time favourite fragrance, Angel. So one can imagine my excitement when Angel Muse landed on my doorstep. We’re going to #HateToLove this modern spin on the gourmand queen that is Angel, MUGLER say, and they’re not wrong, because as much as I don’t like to see my beloved celestial being messed about with, I begrudgingly admit (not really, you know I’m here for all things MUGLER) that I do enjoy Angel Muse very much indeed.
Angel Muse was created by Givaudan perfumer Quentin Bisch, who I must say is a real up and coming talent within the industry, having done great work with Etat Libre d’Orange (see Hermann à Mes Côtés Me Paraissait Une Ombre & La Fin du Monde) and with MUGLER on last year’s sticky sweet A*Men Ultra Zest. Bisch is a good fit for Mugler because he is a truly innovative perfumer who seems to work best when tasked with crafting novel accords, such as the popcorn note found within La Fin du Monde. For Angel Muse, Bisch switches out dark chocolate for hazelnut and adds an element of masculinity with vetiver, taking Angel to new and very modern heights.
I wrote a full break down of Angel Muse for my Escentual column a few weeks back (clicky here to give that a read), so I’m going for a review en bref today. I also wanted an excuse to buy a jar of Nutella to use purely for photographic reasons of course. Although, it would have been a waste not to have a spoon or twelve now, wouldn’t it? So let’s get to it and give Angel Muse a good sniff to see whether it is as delicious and divine as Nutella, or whether it falls short of its lineage…
There is an ever-growing trend within perfumery for intense sweetness. I’m not talking about your everyday gourmands, because those have been around forever, I’m referring to scents that offer up pure, unrefined sugar by the ton, not say, the likes of MUGLER’s Angelwhich inspired the gourmand trend, but ultimately was an essay in tension between sugar and patchouli. In the mainstream, it all started in 2004 with Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb, a nuclear candy floss scent that contains as much ethyl maltol as is possible to shoehorn into a bottle, presenting sugar toasted at the edges without any dark contrasts to temper it. Ever since, fragrance houses have been stumbling over themselves to see who can make the sweetest, most obnoxious fragrance, well that was until Lancôme came along with La Vie est Belle – officially the world’s most tooth-achingly sweet, toasted candy floss scent. It’s also an international best seller – go figure.
Now, I mention all of this not to moan, but instead to say that despite this ever popular trend, a house is yet to make a deliciously sweet overdose of a scent that doesn’t cause olfactory diabetes with one sniff. Well, that is until GUERLAIN threw their hat into the ring with Mon Exclusif, which turns out to be a decadent little treat that knows exactly when to say ‘no more for me, thank you’. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that GUERLAIN have been the brand to hit the nail on the head here, they are, after all half-perfumer and half-perume-patissiere, churning out some of the world’s most delicious morsels in fragrant form. So it’s no surprise then, that Mon Exclusif is a delightful bon bon that has depth and contrast to its sugar overload.
GUERLAIN launched Mon Exclusif in 2015. Created by Thierry Wasser, GUERLAIN’s in-house perfumer, the novel aspect of the fragrance is that it technically comes with no name, allowing the wearer to select their own title by placing the sticky silver letters on the bottle, which itself is a reinterpretation of the house’s famous Coque d’Or bow flacon. “Because your relationship with your fragrance is very intimate” GUERLAIN says, “it’s up to you to name this partner by your side”. So Mon Exclusif can be whatever one wants it to be: Jack, Tyler or Pierre. The choices are infinite and for many reasons, which I’m sure you’ll be able to guess, I decided to call mine ‘CANDY’.
It can’t be easy being a Poison flanker in 2016, I mean, talk about some heavy shoes to fill. We all know that Poison (Edouard Flechier; 1985) and even Hypnotic Poison (Annick Menardo; 1998) are two of mainstream perfumery’s greatest feminine fragrances, so to bear the Poison name comes with a certain amount of expectation and baggage. PoisonGirl, the latest in the series, makes a very sensible choice and opts to be completely on trend following the La Petite Robe Noire school of fruity gourmand thinking. It is essentially a Poison for 2016 and I’m sure that, if the original were made today, it would smell something like this. Click here to check out my full review over at Escentual.com.
One could argue that Francis Kurkdjian, the enfant terrible of the perfume industry, is not averse to playing with fire. He regularly crafts bold creations and dares to tread where many other perfumers do not. I truly believe that he is one of the great perfumers of modern times, up there with the likes of Dominique Ropion and Jean-Claude Ellena. The work he does for designer brands is often bold and trend-setting, resulting in many of the modern classics we revere today, fragrances such as Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Le Mâle and Narciso Rodriguez for Her. For his own brand, Kurkdjian crafts accessible designer-style fragrances with high quality materials, elevating the genre to its highest point. His latest creation, Baccarat Rouge 540, feels like a departure from his radiant MFK style and is instead, an essay in contrasts, olfactory shocks and unconventional luxury. It serves as further proof that he is at the cutting edge of the industry and the very top of his game.
Baccarat Rouge 540 came into being in 2014 when Kurkdjian was approached by the legendary crystal maker to create a limited edition fragrance housed within an exquisite Baccarat crystal flacon (you can see that here). The Baccarat Rouge 540 we see today is the much more affordable, but still rather luxurious, Eau de Parfum incarnation. For his inspiration, Kurkdjian looked to the house’s signature red crystal, a colour that features in many Baccarat designs, with one red crystal included within each and every chandelier since 1987. It is the red crystal of Baccarat that this fragrance presents in olfactory form.
The fragrance is crafted around three accords, each of which celebrates an integral facet of the manufacturing process for Baccarat crystal: mineral, fire and craftsmanship. Kurkdjian stated that he wanted to create a “graphic” fragrance that represents both the density and transparency of crystal, and also the modernity of the brand, which is moving back into the fragrance market following an extended break. This is a fragrance that Kurkdjian created to be representative of the future and that is exactly what he has done, “starting from the dry down and building up like a house of cards”, a perfume that is entirely new and positively futuristic.
Tom Ford is a man that knows a thing or two about glamour. I refer you to this image of Gwyneth Paltrow dressed in TF at the Oscars, should you require any evidence. Mr. Ford creates exceptionally tailored suits for some of the world’s most attractive gents in addition to beautiful womenswear pieces that often channel old Hollywood glamour. He pushes the boundaries too and it’s safe to say that Ford is not averse to ‘sexing things up’ more than a little bit, as many of his advertisements will prove!
It’s safe to say that Tom Ford also knows quite a bit about fragrance too, and since he launched his first fragrance way back in 2006, he has created a veritable empire of scent that dominates department stores across the globe. Of course, when fragrance and glamour meet, the results can be very interesting indeed, and within his brand, Ford has many a fabulous fragrance, ranging from the casual chic of Violet Blonde, to the mysterious opulence of Fleur de Chine, with all of the glamour in the world in between.
I speak of the subject of glamour because Ford’s latest feminine fragrance, ‘Noir Pour Femme’, strikes me as a scent that practically pulsates with fierce feminine beauty. Created as the feminine counterpart to Noir, Tom Ford’s popular masculine from 2012, this interpretation for women has been designed to be as “suggestive as a slashed jet-black dress revealing the curve of woman’s shoulder, or the kissable dip of her back”. As you can probably imagine with a description like that, Noir Pour Femme is all sexed up glamour and no shame.