Speed Sniffs is a way to bring you ‘to-the-point’ fragrance reviews that are quick and easy to digest. They are perfume reviews without the faff.
Sana Jardin is a new eco and ethically conscious fragrance house that aims to create luxurious niche fragrance that brings real change for the growers of the materials, specifically women. This is done through their Beyond Sustainability™ movement which, as Sana Jardin puts it, “is a movement to create tangible and measurable social change through commerce, not charity. It’s a movement to create female entrepreneurs who are agents of change in their community. It is built on traditional, sustainable practices and fair trade. Beyond Sustainability™ is preserving heritage skills while inspiring the next generation of artisans.”
It’s always good for fragrances houses to take a socially-conscious approach to their manufacturing and for this to be at the heart of a luxury niche brand is really encouraging. There are currently seven fragrances in the collection, one of which is the focus of today’s speed sniff! That scent is Nubian Musk and it’s described by Sana Jardin as follows; “A seductive scent recollection…a physical encounter, a chemical attraction, limbs entwined, souls lost to pure, carnal desire. Fragranced with the intoxicating, raw scent of skin, amplified in the heat of passion.” Sounds like it’s quite something, doesn’t it?!
“I am free” says Perfumer Christine Nagel as she sits comfortably in the handsomely furnished apartment above Hermès’ New Bond Street store in London. Nagel is here to talk us through the five new fragrances she has created as in-house Perfumer at Hermès. The five are her first additions to the Hermessence collection, a series of olfactory haikus created by her predecessor Jean-Claude Ellena. Nagel’s style is somewhat different from Ellena’s – his domain was of watercolours and minerals, wrapped in cerebral, thought-provoking compositions that birthed the Hermès olfactory signature. If Ellena created this signature, then Nagel’s has opened it up to a new-found richness with her more immediate, grander and more voluptuous style. Despite their stylistic differences, the creations by both Ellena and Nagel are undeniably ‘Hermès’ in every way.
Anyway, back to freedom. Christine Nagel has full creative freedom at Hermès and with it she has chosen to create a collection of five oriental fragrances to add to Hermès iconic Hermessence collection. Nagel wanted to return to “the origins of perfumery” to create three Eau de Toilettes and two oil-based Perfume Essences. According to Nagel, when she proposed this to the CEO his answer was simply ‘yes’. So off to the origins of perfumery Nagel travelled, focusing on the noble and historic notes of myrrh, musk, agar wood and cedar, with which she has created five distinct fragrances that celebrate the styles of the orient in a way that is truly and faithfully ‘Hermès’.
Happy Valentine’s Day! What better way to celebrate than with a review of a perfume housed within a bottle shaped like a pink heart, eh?
I’ll be perfectly honest and say that when I first became aware of the Australian niche brand Map of the Heart a few years back, I didn’t feel particularly enthused. Here’s just another gimmicky niche brand, I thought – all bottle and no substance. But as we all know, one should not be so judgemental when it comes to perfume because there is always the potential to be surprised! Anyway, Map of the Heart is based on the premise that our hearts are the centre of all we are – as the brand says “our heart is everything pure, good and evil. It aches, it desires, it is who we are.” Map of the Heart is a journey exploration of humankind through the medium olfaction, with six fragrances to date, each one representing a different aspect of humanity (freedom, valour, passion, peace, darkness etc.). Each fragrance is housed within a bottle that takes the anatomical form of the human heart – a flacon designed by the legendary bottle designer Pierre Dinard, no less – the man behind the vessels for Opium, Obsession, Cheap & Chic, and Rive Gauche!
Map of the Heart’s latest fragrances is Pink Heart v.6 and it represents the heart of ecstasy. The brand describes it as “a scent of the imagination and is at once hallucinogenic and hypnotic”. Pink Heart centres on the note of narcissus, presenting an experience that is “narcotic” and “hyper-real”. Having sniffed all of the scents in the collection, Pink Heart strikes me as the boldest and most vivid, but also the most fun. It’s an opulent, excessive fragrance that takes a note so usually associated with glamour and darkness, and spray paints it in the cutest shade of baby pink. So without further ado, lets get to the heart of the matter (bad pun – sorry) and give Pink Heart a big old sniff.
In the somewhat limited lexicon of perfume description, one relies quite heavily on the concept of character when attempting to translate odour into words. I’ll often find myself personifying a fragrance, bringing in characters from popular culture to best describe the spirit of a scent. Heck, I’ve even done it the other way round and have paired scents with famous characters. Perfume can convey the attitude, emotion and style of a character – characters that resonate with us and allow us to identify with a perfume. These character-filled scents are the ones that lead us to spritz something on and declare it “just so me”.
St Giles is an exciting new brand that understands the character of perfume. So much so, in fact, that their debut collection consists of five personalities in olfactory form. From the mind of Michael Donovan, a luxury PR legend, St Giles brings us The Tycoon, The Actress, The Mechanic, The Stylist, and the subject of today’s review: The Writer. These five fragrances were created to “stimulate and amplify the many different aspects of our character” celebrating “the parts that make us who we are, fusing the reality and the fantasy”. They are five characters one wants to get to know – each translated into perfume form by the incomparable Bertrand Duchaufour – and whilst they are all beautiful, The Writer is the standout. So let’s sniff.
There’s an ongoing debate as to whether perfume is an art. I for one, know which side of the debate I come down on and I very much believe that yes, perfume is an art form – after all, it can evoke emotion, illicit memories and tell stories in the exact same way sculpture, photography, film and many other types of art can. But does that mean that every perfume is art? Hell no! Perfume is first and foremost a commercial enterprise, in which many brands create things that are new, exciting and beautiful, but also where many others create replicants that are simply made to sell, so it’s a mixed bag and a more in-depth conversation than this one paragraph allows for.
Anyway, I talk about perfume and art because the fragrance I’m reviewing today is created by an artist named Paul Schütze, whose work spans photography, sound and now, perfume. Schütze’s latest duo of fragrances (Cuadra and Villa M – his fourth and fifth fragrances) take inspiration from two famous buildings, weaving architecture and olfaction together in a bold way. Today’s subject, the bright-pink-bottled Cuadra, is inspired by Mexican architect Luis Barragan’s “brilliantly hued modern masterpiece” Cuadra San Cristobal – a ranch situated amongst reflective pools and fountains. I tell you now, it makes for one heck of a fragrance!
There’s a simplicity and cleanliness to the Tom Daxon brand that really appeals to me. It feels unfussy and uncomplicated in presentation, with clean, structural lines favoured over anything remotely eye-catching or gimmicky. It’s a brand where the fragrances are allowed to speak for themselves and whilst the presentation may be simple (and elegantly so) the composition of each of the fragrances is anything but. Tom Daxon presents a collection with remarkable range, offering beautiful twists on familiar themes, creating fragrances that really don’t smell like anything else. If you haven’t sniffed anything from Tom Daxon then you absolutely must rectify that fact immediately.
The latest addition to the Tom Daxon collection is Riven Oak, and if you’re in to woods in a big way, then your interest should most definitely be piqued right now. Tom Daxon describes this oak-centric fragrance as “layers of smooth woods” and without giving away too much in advance of this review (because I’d quite like you to read on!), I’d say that’s a pretty spot on description. Riven Oak is no ordinary wood fragrance (see more on wood fragrances here) – it’s a multifaceted essay on the complexity of wood, with an entirely unique signature. Interest still piqued? Good, because it should be.
Please indulge me whilst I tell you a little tale that informs you all you need to know about Baccarat Rouge 540 by Maison Francis Kurkdjian. I was sit in the lobby of the Soho Hotel the other day, having just attended an evening with Perfumer Christine Nagel hosted by the Fragrance Foundation. It had been a long day and I desperately needed to charge my phone (for instagram purpose, obviously). As I sat there, minding by own little fragrant business, I watched industry bods trickle past me on their way out. After about ten minutes, two journalists walked past and their conversation went something along the lines of:
“You’re wearing Baccarat Rouge by Kurkdjian, aren’t you?”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes, you are. I can smell it.”
“I’m not. I think I’d know.”
“I can smell it!”
Guess who was rocking the Baccarat Rouge? Oh yeah, that’s right, this bad candy boy right here, that’s who! I fessed up, don’t you worry. But this little tale just goes to show how distinct and unique a signature the fragrance has. In fact, I don’t think I said this when I reviewed Baccarat Rouge 540 last year, but I think it is easily the cleverest perfume composition of the last five years. For a short formula it does a lot, evoking white and red hot crystal with novel accords that feel entirely new. It’s a technical marvel but it’s also a rather unrestrained essay in excess, from a perfumer who usually brings us spacious, chic beauty with a steady hand. I’ll stop beating around the bush and just come out and say that Baccarat Rouge 540 is a god damn masterpiece, and now it comes in an even more lush and luxurious Extrait de Parfum. Colour me excited!