I’m often asking people to sniff things and when I do, a common response is “it’s a bit musky”. This always strikes me as an unusual answer, mainly because many of these fragrances would not be classified as musks in the typical sense. Perhaps people see ‘musky’ as anything that is slightly funky, or perhaps it’s just anything that is difficult to describe and where musk seems like the safe descriptor. Whatever it is, this got me to thinking seriously about what musk really smells like and what it brings to a fragrance.
What I do know however, is that musk is a spectrum, one that ranges from laundry-like purity to animalic pornography. It’s a wide scope for sure and one that traverses a huge range of fragrances. In this post, which is the start of a new series entitled ‘Six Scents’, I take a look at six fragrances on the musk spectrum, moving from the cleanliness of a spin cycle to the shocking sin of a scent between the thighs. Buckle up, fragrance nerds, because this is going to be quite a ride!
“A night in Paris. Sparkling lights and music. A crowd. And her.”
– Chloe Love Story
Here we are with the first review of a 2015 fragrance launch. That didn’t take long, now did it? Well technically, this one was available in some countries at the back end of last year, but it is only reaching the UK this month, but let’s not split hairs, shall we. The perfume we will be looking at today is Love Story by Chloé, the latest offering from a brand that I haven’t featured on the blog before (much to my surprise, actually). Let’s rectify that right now.
In perfumista terms, Chloé is best known for their eponymous signature scent launched in 1975 under the direction of Karl Lagerfeld. Chloé was, and is, a gigantic white floral chocked to the brim with syrup and powder – fearful (but beautiful) stuff for sure. It would be fair to say that the house’s output since hasn’t been as bold, but is still very pretty however, more so in the modern style of perfumery. I remember being particularly impressed with Love, Chloe (a very subtle powder scent) and I’d definitely put this new one, Love Story on that list as well.
For Love Story, Chloé has envisaged a feminine fairytale starring actress, Clémence Posey (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), directed by Mélanie Laurent (as seen in Inglourious Basterds), snapped by Inez Van Lamsweerde and scented by perfumer, Anne Flipo (MyQueen, Chloé Fleur de Narcisse and Manifesto). Housed within a padlock shaped bottle, a sign of love seen on the bridges of the city of lights, Chloé’s Love Story is a contemporary spring floral full of life and romance – an Eau de Parfum dripping with dazzling prettiness.
“Love Story is a modern story of seduction. Her. And him. Their paths cross, a few mumbled words, a beautiful moment.”
By Kilian – the brainchild of cognac heir Kilian Hennessy – launched as a brand in 2007. Hennessy’s first collection, wonderfully entitled ‘L’Oeuvre Noire’, was an impressive outfit, consisting of rich, decadent and expertly created fragrances. Since then, By Kilian has been relatively prolific with its output, releasing a number of fragrances under its ‘Arabian Nights’, ‘Asian Tales and ‘In the Garden of Good and Evil’ collections.
Comparing the fragrance within these latter collection to those found in L’Oeuvre Noire leads one to question what happened to the brand. The more recent offerings have failed to capture the hedonistic magic of those initial fragrances, with none of the newer offerings being even remotely comparable to the photorealistic tuberose of Beyond Love, the film noir honey of Back to Black or rich, pink delicacy of Love.
This year By Kilian has added two new fragrances to its collection; Musk Oud and Playing with the Devil. Both are polar opposites in style, proving that as far as creative direction goes, Hennessy definitely understands and enjoys variety. On the downside however, they also show a continuing ‘watering down’ of ideas within the brand and when looking back at what By Kilian has brought to the table before, this feels very sad indeed.
When it comes to wearing perfume one would consider oneself as a traditionalist, preferring the tried and tested method of spraying (usually copiously) over dabbing or rolling. Concentrations too are a very non-experimental area for this perfume blogger who most definitely prefers Eau de Parfum to anything else.
Perfume oils are not something one would usually even try let alone wear, mainly due to the fact that they are designed to wear close to skin and for a lover of nuclear sillage that simply is not cricket. But one must try everything at least once and thanks to Escentual.com there may just be a musk oil that cuts the mustard – Musc for Her by Narciso Rodriguez. (Slightly NSFW pic below the jump)
“Dress your skin in a new form of Narciso Rodriguez elegance. The Narciso Rodriguez For Her Musc Oil is a precious way to wear the iconic For Her fragrance.
Back and even more luxurious than before, the Musc oil is inspired by the mysterious depths of Egyptian Musk, a scent that Narciso himself wears like a lucky charm. Truly sensuous, the fragrance holds itself close to the skin and invites others to come closer.
The Narciso Rodriguez For Her Musc Oil is to be worn alone for personal pleasure, or with the eau de parfum to elevate its musky notes to another level of seduction.”
Last week, after six weeks of painful but also enjoyable unemployment, I started a brand new, and very exciting job (hence the lack of posts). Now like any sane fume-nerd my initial though on gaining new employment was “what perfume am I going to wear on my first day?!” That’s right, not “will I like the job?” or even “what shall I wear”, it was, as it always is, all about the perfume.
So why not just where whatever I fancy on day one? Well the thing is, when entering a new environment it is important for one to ease people in gently, it does not pay to projectile vomit ones personality in people’s general direction. I have found that it’s always best to go for something relatively low key that is still perfume-y enough to let people know that you mean business, and what do you know a few days before my first day just the thing landed on my doorstep – Aqua Universalis by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.
If you’re not familiar with the idea behind über talented perfumer Francis Kurkdjian’s solo project then you should get to familiarising yourself pretty quick because you’re missing out. The house provides an ‘all for one’ fragrant shopping experience with fragrances for the morning and evening, and wonderful scented things for the body (leather bracelets et al) and the home (candles, incense papers, laundry detergents and scented bubbles). With his ‘Maison’ Kurkdjian is selling a completely scented lifestyle like no other.
Aqua Universalis is Kurkdjian’s take on the much maligned genre of laundry clean fragrances. Made to fulfil the average consumer’s desire to feel clean and shower fresh, a style of fragrance that very often ends up producing cocktails of vile, strong musks and calone that sends fumenerds heading for the hills. Aqua Universalis is not one of these fragrances, it is an intelligent and natural take on ‘clean’ that most importantly still smells like a perfume.
If I had a penny for each and every time I had mentioned that green fragrances really aren’t my thing on this blog I’d have, well I’d have at least 6 pennies I reckon. 6 whole pennies people! In a time of recession that kind of money is not to be scoffed at. Now I’m not entirely sure why it is that me and green things don’t get on, perhaps I just prefer the flowers to the trees, shrubs and leaves, but whatever the reason the truth is that when it comes to me, it’s not that easy being green.
Now if there is one thing I have learned on my journey, wading through all of this perfume, is to never say never. One may think that one hates green fragrances but one can never speak too soon because quicker than lightning someone like Vero Profumo will come along with a fragrance like Mito or Andy Tauer with Verdant and one can’t help but coo at how beautiful it is. But then sometimes you’ll come across a green fragrance that is neither awful nor beautiful, one that is simply nice.
Comme des Garçons’ latest release ‘Amazingreen’ is one such green fragrance and it intends to be “an explosive fragrance that is as wild as the elements” where “organic greenery meets with the explosive elements of smoke and flint.” The sheer mention of the word “greenery” in the latter of these statements would usually send me running for the hills, but I was surprisingly intrigued by a fragrance who’s name promises something that is both “Amazing” and “Green”. What I found however, is a fragrance that isn’t really either of these things, and I’m not entirely sure whether that is disappointing or not.
Picture this: You’re tasked with buying a 30ml bottle of perfume. It has to be something that smells good, isn’t tacky or some horrible celebuscent, and could be classed as a classic due to its unfailing longevity and popularity. Oh and you cannot spend more than £11! That’s doable right?
You may be thinking that you have been set an impossible task, and you would not be blamed for thinking so, after all there are good cheapies on the market but £11 is VERY cheap. But I am very happy to say that you do not have to blow the big bucks to find a decent bottle of perfume, all you need to do is head down to The Body Shop and pick up a bottle of White Musk Perfume Oil.
White Musk is The Body Shop’s flagship fragrance and was released way back in 1981. The Body Shop describe White Musk as “iconic”  and I have to agree, it’s one of those fragrances that everybody knows. It is instantly recognisable and has stood the test of time where other, lesser scents have fallen by the wayside. White Musk may sing a simple little ditty but it is its pleasant simplicity that has secured its well-earned status as a perfume icon.
The purgatory drawer is a lonely place, it’s where my unloved and abandoned perfume bottles go to live out the rest of their days before they inevitably pass on to the other world (eBay) and leave me forever. Very occasionally I will delve into this land of limbo in a vain attempt to rekindle long lost love, and if a bottle is particularly lucky I will have a “what the heck is this doing in here” moment and it will be fully restored, in its former glory, on my perfume shelf.
One such moment occurred very recently, in which i re-stumbled upon my bottle of The Body Shop’s White Musk for Men, a scent that I haven’t worn, or even thought about for at least two years. It was with new found curiosity that I pulled out the neglected purple bottle, spritzed cautiously and inhaled with unexpected joy – “oooh this stuff is good”! It wasn’t long before apologies had been made (mine), forgiveness offered (his) and a place on the prized perfume shelf was offered.
It’s only fair that I was forgiven, I’ve always been a big fan of The Body Shop after all. Their bath, body and fragrance products are well made, well fragranced and generally well priced – what’s not to love? White Musk for Men is no exception, it’s a well constructed, nice smelling masculine that comes in at under £20, a rarity in today’s over-diluted and overpriced industry.
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 smell of the English countryside in spring time”
L.I.L.Y is the latest fragrance from British fashion designer Stella McCartney. It very much marks a break from tradition for McCartney, whose other fragrances have all be a variation on a theme, namely that of her eponymous debut fragrance ‘Stella’. I love Stella, as far as designer fragrances go it is pretty well done and my sister wears it religiously so I have a strong connection to it, but I am very glad that McCartney is branching out into new fragrant territory with L.I.L.Y.
Where Stella was an ode to rose, L.I.L.Y is, as the name suggests, an ode to the lily of the valley. Lily of the valley is a flower which yields no scented oil yet so evocatively represents the smell of the English countryside in spring time. It’s both beautiful to look at, and to smell, and it represents all that is innocent and virtuous about the world. Lily of the valley is simply one of the world’s most precious of joys.
L.I.L.Y is described as an “evocative scent made up of Stella’s most treasured moments” . Its name stems from her father’s nickname for her mother; ‘Linda I Love You’, and the Lily of the Valley used in the fragrance is reminiscent of her wedding bouquet. For L.I.L.Y, McCartney has aimed to create a perfume that is personal to her, rather than Stella McCartney ‘the brand’. In this world of hyper-focus-grouped perfumes, I can’t help but find the personal touch applied to L.I.L.Y utterly refreshing.