A Guide to Oriental Fragrances

As you may be aware, I do like a good ‘guide to‘, and one of the luxuries bestowed to me by the wonderful people at Escentual, is that I get to not only write my guide to notes series here on the TCPB, but I also get to create a number of guides for a range of perfume genres too. So far we’ve taken a look at the humble Chypre, a genre of perfume that is aloof and mysterious and this week’s post takes a look at another famed style of perfumery.

This week the focus is on the mysterious and exotic world of the Oriental. Much like last time, I have picked three fragrances to represent the evolution of the genre – from the classic to the modern and the contemporary. So, if you are looking for a bite-size guide to the Oriental then all you need to do is simply click on the image above to head on over to Escentual!

Les Nombres d'Or by Mona di Orio
Les Nombres d’Or by Mona di Orio

Nowadays every perfume release comes with a story, normally one that involves a good degree of creative license courtesy of the brand’s PR department. This is no bad thing really, a good story can add to the experience of a scent, after all no art is quite as transportive as the art of olfaction, but at times it’s best to approach a perfume without any pre-conceived notions and just allow the scent itself to tell the story.

Some stories in particular are important and the tale behind Mona di Orio’s latest release – ‘Violette Fumée‘ – is both worth telling and incredibly touching. Created privately by Mona di Orio before her death for the private use of her business partner and co-founder Jeroen Oude Sogtoen, Violette Fumée captures “the melody of Jeroen’s favourite passions, memories and materials.” It’s a perfume made out of love, admiration and respect.

On an olfactory level, Violette Fumée is described by the brand as an “oriental balsamic floral” and in the same vein as many other perfumes from the house it feels incredibly unusual when compared to its peers. It stands as a true testament to Mona’s talent as a perfumer and is a fitting legacy for someone who brought so much intrigue to the world of fragrance.

This is Casual for Tom Ford...
This is Casual for Tom Ford…

Last year Tom Ford released his third signature masculine fragrance under the very Tom Ford-esque moniker ‘Noir‘. This Eau de Parfum was one of 2012’s more impressive launches, so splendid it was in fact that it won a Candy (my annual awards) for Best Mainstream Masculine, beating out the likes of Viktor & Rolf’s Spicebomb and Guerlain’s Homme L’Eau Boisée.

New for 2013 is the Noir Eau de Toilette, a lighter and fresher version of the Noir signature. Tom Ford describes it as being “inspired by a mysterious duality of elegance and sensuality” and as far as masculine fragrances go it definitely feels elegant enough to fulfill the smart, suit-clad aesthetic of the brand, albeit in a much more ‘dressed-down’ manner.

“An oriental, sensual fragrance that captures the twin facets of the Tom Ford man; the refined, urbane sophisticate who the world gets to see and the intriguingly sensuous, private man they don’t.”

Where Noir Eau de Parfum is a contemporary and masculine take on Guerlain’s flagship fragrance Shalimar, the Eau de Toilette is more akin to a ‘légère’ or ‘light’ version. To put it another way, the EDP is best worn with a super-smart suit (or trench coat and massive scarf) and the EDT is more suited for a clean white shirt and chinos – its the difference between day and night.

Elie Saab Le Parfum Intense
Elie Saab Le Parfum Intense

When Elie Saab released his Francis-Kurkdjian-penned debut fragrance – ‘Le Parfum‘ – in 2011, it quickly garnered praise as one of the most impressive feminine designer launches of the year. Since then it has maintained its popularity, spurring the release of an Eau de Toilette version in 2012 and a brand new intense edition for 2013.

“Inspired by the magical moment of dusk, mysterious and captivating, the floral oriental Elie Saab Le Parfum Intense tells the story of a woman who comes alive as the sun goes down. She is confidence incarnate, and wears her Elie Saab couture like a second skin.”

For Le Parfum Intense, Saab has opted for a perfume that is richer and less diffusive than the original. This particular presentation of Le Parfum serves as a headier and more intoxicating version where the intensity of white flowers is amplified, along with vanilla to create a truly couture experience.

Kirsten 1996
Kirsten 1996 by Inez van Lamsweerde an Vinoodh Matadin

Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin – more widely known simply as ‘Inez and Vinoodh’ – are world-famous fashion and art photographer, renowned for snapping pictures for the likes of Björk, Lady Gaga, Vivienne Westwood and Vogue, just to name a very small few. They are highly respected for their versatile approach to photography and are, in their own way, quasi-celebrities within the art world.

Not content simply as a twosome, Inez and Vinoodh collaborated with popular niche brand Byredo to create a “private edition” fragrance to serve as a Christmas gift for beloved friends and clients. Rumour has it that the fragrance was so well received that they simply had no choice to release it for the hoi polloi to enjoy – thus the wide release of Byredo’s latest fragrance, ‘1996’.

Inspired by the photo ‘Kirsten 1996’ (see above), 1996 is described by Byredo founder Ben Gorham as “an olfactory snapshot not only of the image but of our emotional response to it” and it stands as a unique offering where an image is used to be evocative of a perfume rather than the other way round. The scent intends to create “a visual language, for perfume and, like all great collaborations, shared sentience” (make of that what you will).

Fashion, Fumes & Furs
Fashion, Fumes & Furs

It came down to yours truly to pick the theme for this edition of the group blog post between myself, Olfactoria’s Travels, Persolaise, Fragrant Moments and Eyeliner on a Cat. For me this task was simple, I knew straight away that I wanted to talk about the relationship between fragrance and fashion, and more importantly I wanted to see just what my fragrant brothers and sisters would make of the correlation.

For years the worlds of perfume and couture have collided to create a wealth of classics and a whole heap of dreck. Houses like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford and Dior are as famous for their perfumes as they are for their fashions, with the former serving as an accessible way for one to own just a small piece of one’s favourite luxury brand.

One’s favourite fashion trend is most definitely animal print. There is just something so wonderfully wild about such bold, beastly prints and furs (all faux of course) in fashion and when one wishes to make a statement there is no greater choice than a measured dose of shocking animal print.

This post takes a look at one’s pick of the best ‘Animal Print Perfumes’ – those fragrances that perfectly capture the spirit of the boldest of prints. Whether it be the spots of the royal leopard, the stripes of the elegant zebra or the scales of the deadly black mamba, this post celebrates the collision of fashion and fragrance in the most utterly outrageous of styles.

[Please head on over to Persolaise, Olfactoria’s Travels, Fragrant Moments and Eyeliner on a Cat to read their takes on fashion and fragrance]

Marni Eau de Parfum
Marni Eau de Parfum

Too often us perfume lovers (and bloggers) can don our snobby caps and declare that all designer fragrance output is trash. This is more than just simple misconception, it is in fact a big fat lie, after all most of the perfumes that one would laud as a ‘classic’ are from designer outfits such as Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior – the most ‘designery’ of brands.

That said, there is still a lot of dreck out there and the general modus operandi appears to be to create inoffensive fragrances that cater to the tastes of the mass market. But it seems that there is a small revolution taking place, where some designer brands are changing the game by creating enjoyable and easy to wear creations with more than just a little hint of ingenuity. We’ve seen it from Bottega Veneta, we’ve seen it from Prada and we’ve seen it from Maison Martin Margiela. Now we’re seeing it from Italian fashion brand Marni.

Marni Eau de Parfum is the brand’s first fragrance outing and they are in safe hands, having picked esteemed perfumer Daniela Andrier (Prada Infusion d’Iris & Candy and Maison Martin Margiela Untitiled) to pen the project. The fragrance intends to capture the playful spirit of Marni’s fashion and is described as “the opposite of the standard concept of femininity”, a description that fills this fragrance gender-bending nerd’s heart with nothing but joy.

The Spirit of the Ballet. Bottled.
The Scent of The Ballet, Bottled

“Editor’s Note: Iris Prima, the latest perfume from Penhaligon’s launches today therefore I thought it prudent to share again with you my review from June. Tell me, what do you think the ballet smells like?”

Perfumers and brands can take their inspiration from a wide variety of mediums when creating a perfume: music, nature, people, memories, places and food; just to name a small few. As perfume lovers we welcome a wealth of muses – after all it’s always interesting to see perfumes based on new and exciting things rather than the usual set of notes and themes.

Penhaligon’s is a brand that seems to have a far reaching nose, in the sense that they like to seek out unusual inspirations and over the years have created a number of perfumes inspired by weird and wonderful things. Take their wonderful Sartorial for example, a fragrance that accurately captures the scent of a Saville Row tailor’s workroom or the equally-wonderful Juniper Sling, a perfect olfactory tribute to the quintessentially English drink of Gin.

For their latest offering, the brand has teamed up with English National Ballet to create a fragrance that captures the spirit of the ballet – a perfume that they describe as being “a work of olfactory choreography”. Having had exclusive access to dancers Nathan Young and Lauretta Summerscales, in addition to behind the scenes visits, perfumer Alberto Morillas has created a beautiful ode to the most graceful of dances.

Les Liqueurs de Parfums
Les Liqueurs de Parfums by Thierry Mugler

I make no bones about the fact that Thierry Mugler is one of my all-time favourite perfume brands. Their signature perfumes – Angel, Alien, Womanity, Cologne and A*Men – all have a very special place in my collection and are so befitting of the style of perfume I love, they almost feel as if they were created for me – although I am entirely aware that they were not.

Once a year Mugler treats us all to a special collection of fragrances – four unique takes on their existing signature fragrances. The familiar accords of these perfumes are twisted and remixed to include an ‘enhancer’ that presents them in an entirely new light. Over the last few years the likes of Angel et al have been reshaped by leather and gourmet ingredients to name just a few.

This year’s collection – ‘Les Liqueurs de Parfums‘ – sees the famous Mugler fragrances imbued with equally well-known liqueurs and is a sidestep for the brand, having already released alcohol-inspired versions of Angel, Alien and A*Men in 2009. The difference with this collection, however is that the wooden casks each fragrance has been aged in were warmed up and toasted to add a brand new facet to these boozy ‘fumes.

Hedonist
Hedonism or Over Indulgence?

When preparing a review of a fragrance I usually wear it on five or six separate occasions, whilst each time jotting my thoughts down in my perfume book. There is a method to my madness it seems and this process allows me to piece together the many intricacies (or lack thereof in some cases) that make up a perfume.

Most follow this trajectory, allowing me to form a strong opinion at the end of my trials. This however, is not the case for all perfumes that I sample and there is a small category of ‘undefinables’ that seem almost tricky to fathom out. These slippery fishes can either cause great interest or mass frustration, depending on how things pan out and perhaps one of the most severe cases of perfume miffed-ness comes from Viktoria Minya’s Hedonist.

Viktoria Minya is an “award winning Hungarian perfumer” and her first perfume ‘Hedonist’ is described as a “powerful and provocative perfume for a woman who dares to be true to her desires”. With a name like ‘Hedonist’ one expects an indulgent, sensory explosion – a feast of odours for one to dine on like a true glutton. But is this hedonist perhaps a tad too over indulgent?