Oud Mood
Francis Kurkdjian’s Trio of Oud Moods

If I were to pose most perfume-addicts the question; “are you in the mood for oud?” the response would likely be a resounding ‘no’, with a good few exasperated sighs and possibly one or two slaps to the face for good measure. The simple fact is that oud, the noble rot from the Aquilaria tree, is over exposed in the world of perfume and one cannot step into their local fragrance hall without being bombarded by “THE LATEST OUD FRAGRANCE FROM XXX” or “LOOK, WE’VE MADE A PERFUME AND IT HAS OUD IN IT, ACTUAL OUD (KINDA, NOT REALLY)!”.

But I refuse to be disheartened by the oud trend, because that’s exactly what it is – a trend, and we all know that trends are transient in nature, meaning that it’ll all be over before we know it. In reality this trend is far from being all bad, after all there are some great oud-based scents out there (check out my Guide to Oud), with perhaps the best in most recent years being Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s incandescent OUD.

“The creation of the OUD mood collection is a tribute to the type of perfume that makes you feel as if you are wrapped in a rare, delicate material, one that is in perfect harmony with a warm, gentle, refined state of mind.”

Following on from the success of last year’s incandescent OUD, Francis Kurkdjian has added not one, but three new oud fragrances to his Maison. Named ‘OUD Mood’ this collection takes inspiration from the soft feel of fabric, namely; Silk, Velvet and Cashmere. Each one offering a brand new and interesting texture of oud and serving as a wave of refreshment for tired, bored and frankly cranky perfume lovers.

Ooh Gorilla!
Ooh Gorilla!

As a die-hard fragrance nerd it’s difficult not to love Gorilla Perfume, the fragrant arm of those smelly bath purveyors Lush. For one, they march to the beat of their own drum, drawing inspiration from subjects as varied as Thai Ladyboys and Italian showers. But perhaps most importantly they are an outfit that champions that old idiom “It’s all about the juice”, caring first and foremost for the perfume above bottles and marketing.

This passion for perfume has allowed Lush to birth a line of beautiful, surprising and sometimes downright-wacky fragrances that challenge one’s notion of what constitutes a scent as much as they serve to inspire and foster a life-long love for all that is perfume. It sounds corny but it is brands like Gorilla Perfume that are the reason why I love perfume, when there is so much to be cranky about they have the ability to restore one’s faith in perfume and make one smile with a single spritz. You gotta love that Gorilla!

Late last year Gorilla Perfume launched 12 new fragrances (that’s right -12) under a new collection entitled ‘Volume 2’. The overall look of this new collection feels like a shift in direction for Gorilla Perfume and I’d say the scents themselves follow suit. There seems to be less focus on the cartoonish hijinks of the past and greater emphasis on a more mature approach – dare I say that our Gorilla may have grown up?!

I was sent a few of these new scents to try and today I’d like to share with you my thoughts on two of the most intriguing; Furze and The Voice of Reason.

From Latin America to China via Russia and India and the Gulf
From Latin America to China via Russia and India and the Gulf

If I could change one thing about my life it would be to ensure that I was better travelled than I am. In my head I long to be a great explorer scouring every corner of the earth. I want to walk the Great Wall of China, taste the street food in Mexico, eat lobsters in Maine (it all comes back to food with me), play with the cats at the cat cafe in Tokyo and float around the streets of Florence , but the problem is, I’m a bit of a wimp.

So, as much as I wish I’d visited all of these places, and I do truly hope to one day, I haven’t, in fact up until a few years ago I hadn’t made it further than France. It’s appalling, I know. Luckily for us armchair explorers, with Ormonde Jayne’s latest collection ‘The Four Corners of the Earth’ one can visit the most exotic destinations without even removing one’s pyjamas. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been to the Gulf, Russia, Latin America and China…

For the Four Corners of the Earth collection Linda Pilkington and perfumer Geza Schoen have taken Ormonde Jayne on a trip round the globe, soaking up the sights, smells and colours of four distinct cultures without diluting the brand one bit, and this is what makes the collection so excellent; the fact that despite the strong influences of their respective homelands, each fragrance still very much follows the Ormonde Jayne signature of refined, elegant fragrances. After all, it’s not just where we go that shapes who we are, it’s where we come from too.

Bon Anniversaire!
Bon Anniversaire!

It’s not often that a perfume turns 100 years old, heck it’s not often that a person hits the big one double zero, let alone a scent. But in a world where there are a cool 1,200 + perfume launches per year, many of which ride the coat tails of some quasi-celebrity or another whose career is most likely going to be short lived, longevity isn’t something that’s guaranteed. So it stands to reason that a perfume which has managed to last for a cool century should be celebrated.

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of Guerlain’s classic fragrance L’Heure Bleue and the house is celebrating in style. To honour such a huge feat Guerlain has released a trio of Thierry Wasser penned limited edition interpretations of L’Heure Bleue; L’Aurore, Le Crépuscule and Le Zénith, the latter of which has been added to the Les Parisiennes line as an Eau de Parfum entitled L’Heure de Nuit.

“I felt something so intense, I could only express it in a perfume.” Jacques Guerlain

L’Heure Bleue took its inspiration from the colour of the sky just before dusk, when the world is bathed in a melancholy blue light. L’Heure de Nuit represents a softer side of this blue hour, when the light is almost entirely faded from the sky and darkness begins to take hold. It encapsulates the placid coolness of the evening evoking feelings of calm rather than sadness.

The Beast Within
The Beast Within

Some perfumes come surrounded by so my hyperbole that it is impossible to approach them with an open mind. The perfume community does have a habit of hyping things up to god-like levels so that when one comes to trying something regarded as the divine ambrosia it’s almost too easy to be completely disappointed.

Still, disappointment isn’t such a bad thing, after all it allows us to reaffirm our tastes and what we do or don’t like. Anyway, sometimes it’s good to stand out from the pack, you might be miffed at the time but individuality is something to be celebrated. But there are times when a whole heap of hype can be substantiated and one fine example would be Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Absolue Pour le Soir.

“When the night takes on its own life, the tempo changes. Take a long, languorous breath. Linger till dawn. Keep your head in the stars. You’re suspended in time.”

Absolue Pour le Soir (Absolute for the Evening) is a “more concentrated and sophisticated” version of Kurkdjian’s Cologne Pour le Soir. If I had to sum it up in three words I would choose; “beautiful, filthy beast” because it is a fragrance that has the power to shock due to its strong dichotomy of ugliness and beauty.

Tom Ford Noir
SWOON

Traipse through your local department store and you will find a barren landscape virtually void of decent masculine fragrances. Alright I’m being dramatic, of course there are a few noteworthy ones (mainly older releases), but on the whole the majority; your Calvins, Hugos and your Pacos, are definitely essays in quantity over quality. A good masculine is hard to find, it’s true, but it’s not entirely impossible.

Tom Ford is a man that cares about quality. His fragrance line, especially his signature collection, is a cut above most designer offerings (and is priced accordingly) and he has most definitely crafted out his own style, that off opulent, classy and smart fragrances with a tiny touch of the shock factor for which he is infamous.

Noir (pronounced “Noo-ahr” if you are Tom Ford) is the latest masculine addition to Tom Ford’s signature stable and it is in good company, joining such esteemed fragrances as Tom Ford for Men, Tom Ford Extreme and Grey Vetiver. But where the other TF masculines are elegant examples of citrus, woods and/or vetiver, Noir is a essay on resins and powders that, dare I say it, almost feels like a masculine rendition of the Oriental Queen that is Guerlain’s Shalimar.

APOM
APOM (A Part of Me)

As we go through life we share pieces of ourselves with those around us, building relationships and leaving impressions on those we encounter. Our smells and the fragrances we wear, just like our actions, act as time capsules that tie people’s memories to us like silver threads. It is this idea that inspired Francis Kurkdjian to create APOM Pour Femme and Pour Homme.

“APOM (A Part of Me), a bit of oneself that one leaves on others. A relationship inspired from the beauty of the Orient: movement of people, flavors, colours, and scents rediscovered from Lebanon. A combination of softness and strength.”

Both masculine and feminine APOMs centre around orange blossom, a flower that evokes sensuality and closeness, and cedar wood, a material that speaks of arid landscapes. In typical Kurkdjian style both fragrances are exceptional examples of their style and the duo itself offers a stark contrast of both softness (Femme) and strength (Homme).

Having spent a good deal of time with most of the Maison Francis Kurkdjian line I feel as if I am well-versed enough to be able to pick favourites. I think OUD, Aqua Universalis and Absolue Pour le Soir (review coming soon) are standouts, perhaps because they are so bold and unique, but it is in the subtlety of APOM Pour Femme and Pour Homme that I have found real enjoyment.

She's a Steampunk Girl...
Oh Steampunk Girl, How I Love You With Your Cogs and Your Curls…

Andy Tauer is one amazing dude. Not only is he an incredibly talented self-taught perfumer he’s also a fascinating blogger as well as being a very nice chap indeed. What I love most about Andy Tauer is the fact that he constantly pushes the boundaries with beautiful, innovative compositions whilst staying true to his signature style.

Whether you click with this signature style or not Tauer’s collection, which contains his Classics, Homages, Pentachords and Collectibles, is so diverse that you’d be pretty darn unlucky not to find something to fall in love with. Whether you are attracted to the throwback rose of Une Rose Chyprée or the orange/vanilla supernova of Orange Star you are bound to find something to adore.

Perhaps the most interesting of Tauer’s projects is his collaboration with filmmaker Brian Pera for Tableau de Parfums, a line of perfumes inspired by the heroines of the Woman’s Picture Series. First came Miriam, an impeccable vintage floral and now we have Loretta, Tauer’s ode to tuberose. Andy Tauer AND tuberose?! Surely this could go either way! It could be the amazing tauerade soaked floral I hope it to be or it could be a hot mess.

Described as referencing “the rich spicy orientals and elegant floral classic of the seventies and eighties, with a modern twist” Loretta is unmistakably Tauer but at the same time it feels new, not just as a Tauer fragrance but as a tuberose. It has the striking ability to smell simultaneously familiar yet alien and it is so bold in character that it will easily be one of those perfumes that divide opinion, and as we all know those perfumes are the best kind.

Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday by JaxAble on Deviantart

I don’t know about you but it took me a long time to ‘get’ Serge Lutens. The line that is, not the man himself, I doubt there is anyone on the planet who can profess to ‘get’ Serge Lutens himself, but I digress. Yes, it took me a long time to understand why everybody raved about everything Lutens, there was just something about all of those thick-set, heavy orientals that simply didn’t click with me.

But alongside his dense orientals Lutens has a number of gothic florals (Iris Silver Mist, Tubéreuse Criminelle and Sarrasins etc) that really do speak to me and it wasn’t until I tried these that I felt compelled to convert and pray at the altar of Sergeism. It is this great love of Serge’s florals that made me so excited to try his latest exclusive offering, a perfume that focuses on a highly fragrant, yet elusive flower that yields no oil; the gardenia.

Une Voix Noire (A Black Voice) is the name of Uncle Serge’s essay on gardenia and it takes its inspiration from famous American jazz-singer Billie Holiday, or “Lady Day” as she was sometimes known. For the lady who wore gardenia flowers in her hair, Lutens and his olfactory-partner-in-crime Christopher Sheldrake have created a fragrance that evokes the odours of “jazz, drinks and the night, and, beyond all that, a troubling line of white gardenia-scented smoke.”

Jessica Chastain looks good in EVERYTHING, even purple paint...
Jessica Chastain looks good in EVERYTHING, even purple paint…

The stand-alone feminine fragrance is the bread and butter of the designer fragrance world. I personally find it fascinating to see what the big three houses (Chanel, Dior and YSL) will do with their next feminine pillar, as with each release one sees the change in times and tastes, and it seems that change is definitely afoot at YSL. Having recently, under the direction of Hedi Slimane, dropped the “Yves” to become simply “Saint Laurent Paris” the fashion side of the brand looks to move in a new direction and the fragrances may just follow suit.

When I think of YSL (the perfumes will still be marketed under the old name) I think of bold, fearless perfumes such as Opium, Rive Gauche, Paris and Kouros. Yes these fragrances embody the styles of their respective eras but they’ve always seemed, to me at least, to capture the spirit of Yves Saint Laurent the man and the renegade designer perfectly. Recent efforts by the brand however, have failed to live up to the legacy of the classics.

Manifesto, created by perfumes Flipo and Doc Long, is YSL’s first major feminine release since Parisienne in 2009 and whilst that wasn’t exactly a tough act to follow it feels like the pressure is on for YSL to bring out something new and daring. Well, it appears that YSL have sensed this pressure, describing Manifesto as “an attitude, a burst of laughter, a tone of voice, a presence” [1] and “the manifesto of femininity” [2]. Is it really as daring as it seems?