There is a song on Jay-Z’s latest album entitled ‘Tom Ford’, and in said song Mr Z raps the line; “I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford.” Well much like our good friend Jay-Z, I too am not one for recreational drug use and also have somewhat of a penchant for the offerings of American fashion designer Tom Ford – who knew we’d have so much in common?
Unfortunately that is where the common ground ends and unlike Jay-Z I do not have the adequate finances to rock any Tom Ford clothing (oh but how I wish I did), however my budget can certainly stretch to the designer’s olfactory offerings and like many others I have found there to be a number of sniff-worthy perfumes residing within the Tom Ford corner of the department store.
Mr Ford is relatively active on the olfactory front with two lines of perfume to choose from – the widely available and reasonably priced ‘Signature Collection’, which contains the likes of Black Orchid, Violet Blonde, Sahara Noir, Grey Vetiver and Noir; and the more exclusive and definitely pricier ‘Private Blends.’ Personally, I have found more love for the perfumes in the Signature Collection (much to the relief of my partner and bank balance), however the Private Blend certainly has more than its fair share of gems, which leads me nicely onto Tom Ford’s latest collection – ‘Atelier d’Orient.’
The Atelier d’Orient Collection is inspired by; “the sublime beauty, enigmatic sensuality and exquisite luxury of Asia” and each of the four fragrances within the collection are reported to contain; “ingredients that have treasured prestige in the Orient.” Speaking of the collection, Tom Ford states that each fragrance captures a distinct mood – “captivating romance, colonial elegance, luxurious exoticism and rich mysterious sensuality” – with each serving as a perfect representation of the bold Tom Ford aesthetic.
When I first started getting in to perfume I, like many others, spent a decent amount of time lurking the Basenotes forums and learning that there is just so much more perfume out there than one would think. During my months of discovery I came across the word ‘niche’ for the very first time and back then my understanding was that ‘niche’ described ‘special’ and ‘artisanal’ perfume – descriptions that may not be applicable today.
My first experience with niche perfume was with CREED, a brand that has many fans and many detractors, and it was a decant of Silver Mountain Water that opened my eyes to the startling fact that perfume could smell unusual. Whatever your opinion is of the CREED dynasty it is hard to deny that they have made a number of rather decent perfumes – Silver Mountain Water being one and Green Irish Tweed, Millesime Imperial and Virgin Island Water being others – and whilst I may have not paid the brand much mind over the last few years I cannot deny that they have a knack for creating classic and elegant perfumes.
CREED’s latest offering is Millesime 1849, a perfume that has been launched to commemorate the birth date of London’s premiere shopping destination Harrods – a place that is as much as tourist attraction as it is a department store. Millesime 1849 aims to capture the spirit of one of London’s most famous addresses and the “imperial epoch which inspires its name, as well as the glorious reign of Victoria”.
I like Tom Ford – not because he is incredibly handsome (although I’m not denying that he is more than a little bit dishy) – but because when it comes to perfume he has a keen sense of volume and seems to favour that which is rich, sturdy and loud. To put it simply he is the king of what I like to call ‘perfume writ large’.
His signature collection (Black Orchid et al) in particular displays satisfyingly loud levels of sillage and many are bold, divisive creations that provoke nothing but strong reactions. The latest addition to the collection – Sahara Noir – is no exception and it is perhaps one of Ford’s loudest and dare I say butchest fragrances to date.
Taking inspiration from “the mystery and luxury of the Middle East” and “evoking the untamed beauty of the arabic peninsula” Sahara Noir speaks of an exotic and wealthy world where bold statements in both fashion and perfume are the norm. This is Tom Ford’s domain and if there is one thing the man knows how to do more than anything else it is make a bold statement.
It seems that Penhaligon’s are in the mood to spoil us with not one, but two new perfumes this year. If you are too impatient to wait for the arabesque of iris that is Iris Prima that is due to launch in September, then worry ye not, as this month the brand have unleashed a brand new Eau de Parfum that most definitely deserves attention.
‘Vaara’ is the name of Penhaligon’s latest offering and it takes inspiration from the Royal House of Marwar-Jodphur in Rajasthan. Created by venerable perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour (also responsible for Amaranthine and Sartorial) Vaara was commissioned by His Highness Maharajah Gaj Singh II to commemorate the birth of his granddaughter, Vaara.
To capture the sights, sounds and scents of Jodphur, Duchaufour took a trip to India (the lucky boy gets to go to all of the best places) and explored the world of the Maharajah. The result is a truly exceptional composition (I’m so smitten I wore it as my graduation scent) that is not only evocative of a geographical location but also captures the spirit of an exotic and lavish way of life.
I didn’t envy Amouage the task of topping their masculine & feminine duo from last year. Both Interlude Woman and Man were triumphs of perfumery, taking chaotic notes and throwing them together to create two challenging, yet wearable (and not to forget bloody gorgeous) fragrances.
This year’s duo – Fate Woman and Fate Man – certainly have big shoes to fill and it appears that Creative Director Christopher Chong has pulled out all of the stops to create two fragrances that are bold enough to mark the “end of the first cycle of the Amouage narrative” and leave one excited for exactly what wonders the beginning of the next cycle may entail.
Fate Woman (created by perfumer Dorothée Piot) and Fate Man (created by Karine Vinchon) “explores the uncertainty of the future and the universal principal by which the order of things is inescapably prescribed” and in their own, very distinct ways illicit polarising responses. They, as with many Amouage perfumes, are for those that adore excess and do not shy away from bold statements.
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.
There should be a club for those that consider themselves as ‘Amouage Addicts’. We could all sit around discussing our adoration for the Omani house, pouring over our favourites and consoling each other over the fact that we’ll never be able to own them all. One matter that definitely would not be up for discussion however, is the idea of giving the house up any time soon. It’s simply not on the table.
We are truly helpless really, what with the annual masculine and feminine pairings. Not to mention special editions such as Beloved and the highly artistic and fascinating Library Collection. The truth is that we are mere lemmings for Amouage and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This year’s addition to the Library Collection is Opus VII. Created by perfumers Pierre Negrin and Alberto Morillas it “arouses the juxtaposition of harmon with the intensity of reasoning between conflicting ideas and beliefs” . Much like the chaos of the Interlude duo from last year, Opus VII appears to take a slightly more abstract approach with its dark black flacon serving as a small hint for the wild ride that’s unleashed upon the very first spritz.
Alexander McQueen’s perfume line was both infamous and short lived. Perhaps better known for the erotically charged skank-bomb Kingdom than its other offerings, McQueen’s perfumes were nowhere near as successful as they were artistic or ultimately as they deserved to be.
Following in the same vein as his fashion output McQueen’s first perfume Kingdom was a renegade scent created to shock, however the second and final perfume from the brand – MyQueen – was something entirely different, opting to reference the subtle intricacies of the designer’s sculptural tailoring rather than courting the realms of controversy.
Created in 2005 by perfumers Anne Flipo (Ananas Fizz, La Chasse aux Papillons & Donna Karan Woman) and Dominique Ropion (Carnal Flower, Alien & Portrait of a Lady) MyQueen was created to represent the McQueen woman – “a vision of the woman of his (McQueen’s) dreams” – with the kaleidoscopic bottle representing not only the many facets of this woman but also McQueen’s love for antique glass.
As a fashion brand I have the greatest respect for Versace (admittedly less-so with Donatella at the helm) – they know how to make gaudy look glamorous and are at their very best when they are being as showy as possible. As a perfume brand Versace is less attractive, again their older stuff is good (I’ll always have a soft spot for Blue Jeans and Versace Woman, and Blonde is pretty awesome) but their newer stuff is very much lacklustre at best.
So it was with mixed expectations that I approached the brand’s latest masculine offering ‘Eros’. On the surface Eros appears to have everything you would want in a Versace fragrance – tacky bottle (it’s positively wonderful in its tackiness), ridiculous, over-the-top advertising (see here) and a Tanorexic muscly adonis fronting the whole thing – but as we all know in the world of fragrance, appearances can be deceiving.
Eros takes its name from Greek mythology, specifically the Greek God of Love. Created by perfumer Aurélien Guichard (Bond No 9 Chinatown and all of the new Robert Piguet fragrances and re-issues) Eros is described by Donatella Versace as being for “a man who is own master and who defends his own ideas and goals. He is a hero.” We know exactly what Donatella’s idea of a hero looks like but what does he smell like?
There are a small number of perfume houses that I would consider to have me completely hooked. By this I mean that I adore most of their output so far and will always pay attention to anything new they release. Houses such as this – Thierry Mugler, Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Etat Libre d’Orange to name a few – always have a clear vision as to what makes a perfume one of theirs.
Amouage is one such house where each and every offering is a definite article that incorporates the strong ‘east meets west’ aesthetic that the brand was founded upon. With each year a new chapter in the Amouage story is unleashed and Creative Director Christopher Chong constantly pushes the boundaries of niche perfumery.
Last year Amouage launched a super-exclusive (and equally super-exclusively priced) rose perfume called Beloved. It seems that this year the house deemed it fit for it to be joined by a masculine counterpart. Beloved Man was created by perfumer Bernard Ellena and is a woody oriental that serves as “a nod to the 1980 movie Somewhere in Time.”