I have a soft spot for CHANEL fragrances – I always have and it’s likely that I always will. They are made with excellent technical expertise and from high quality materials, with each one perfume something specific about the brand they originate from. They are commercial, yes, but that doesn’t mean they are without interest and being honest, I’ll reach more for the likes of Nº5 L’EAU, Nº19 POUDRE, BEIGE, and my favourite, BOY, than I will some of the weirder things in my collection. CHANEL is wearable, beautiful, and consistent – that’s what makes the brand so great.
The one CHANEL I haven’t spent that much time with is CHANCE and it’s three flankers (EAU TENDRE, EAU VIVE, and EAU FRAICHE). CHANCE has always been CHANEL’s fragrant entry point – the CHANEL that is likely to be a woman’s first, and whilst I don’t want to assign ages to particular fragrances, CHANCE’s modern fruity-floral-chypre has always been bang on trend for a younger perfume-wearing crowd. So CHANCE is pretty fun and chic in a modern way, but its flanker CHANCE EAU TENDRE is even more so, and now, CHANEL have launched a new Eau de Parfum interpretation of EAU TENDRE – a scent they describe as an “intensified whirlwind of femininity”. I don’t know about you, but I always appreciate my femininity served in an intensified whirlwind!
One can accuse the perfume industry of many things, but one cannot call it unproductive. There are now over 2,000 launches per year and it feels almost as if a new brand comes into being every single day. Now, I’m not sure how I feel about all this olfactory noise – part of me thinks the more the merrier, after all, it’s exciting to smell new things all of the time. But the other half – the grumpy cynical half (sometimes he’s not a half and verges on a whole, I’ll be honest) – thinks that all this noise makes it difficult to discern what is good or not. How can one find the magic needle in all that hay? Sometimes it’s hard.
Perfume brands come from all sorts of places; from perfumers who want to go it alone and perfume fanatics who stumble into the industry wide-eyed and ambitious. My cynical side tells me to include the fact that brands can also come from entrepreneurs who have no passion for the subject but an eye for making money too, so let’s indulge him for a moment. In my experience though, the brands that work most successfully are those that come from people who are passionate about perfume (whoever they may be, perfumers, industry insiders or outsiders) but also understand the realities of the industry and retail. Ostens is one such brand – it comes from two industry veterans, two people that not only love perfume, but understand it too – two people who understand the challenges consumers have relating to perfume and have crafted a brand that makes it both accessible and experimental.
There are a few perfume ‘genres’ that I have never really ‘got’: green, woody and amber. Well, with time (and through this blog) I’ve learned to appreciate green and to love woods, but for the most part amber still eludes me. Amber, for those of you not familiar with it, is a blend of benzoin (a balsamic resin obtained from the bark of a number of trees within the Styrax genus), labdanum (a sticky brown resin sourced from shrubs) and vanilla that creates a warm, glowing sweetness that is soft, fluffy and gauzy in texture. It is the backbone of big oriental fragrances such as Shalimar, but it’s also used as a standalone theme in many modern perfumes.
More than being an iconic perfume genre, the amber is also the perfect scent for this cold weather. I like to think of ambers as winter warmers – those gloriously toasty and enveloping scents that get stuck in one’s winter scarf, wafting a hedonistic aura around the wearer. So as the winter draws in, it makes sense for everyone to have an amber in their wardrobe. But what happens when you don’t really like amber? Or, you think that you don’t like amber?
Ever since couturier Paul Poiret launched the perfume house Parfums de Rosine in 1911, fashion and fragrance have always had an unbreakable link – a seam and a stitch that has brought them together. Today fashion houses, high street brands, and all that sits in between, have fragrances in their portfolio, attempting to, with varying degrees of success, distill their brand identities into scents that provide an accessible entry point for the consumer.
Founded in 1994, AllSaints, the London-based fashion brand, has always moved to the beat of their own drum, so it’s no surprise that it has taken them a long time to get into the fragrance market. AllSaints is all about a free-spirited coolness – an easy, ‘I wear what I want’ spirit. With a price point elevated above many high street brands, AllSaints has always struck me as a place one goes for pillars in their wardrobe – investments like a leather jacket that goes with anything, perhaps. It’s a brand that favours neutral colours, with an aesthetic that enjoys contrasts – juxtapositions of hard and smooth, of wood and metal.
With their debut collection of fragrances, AllSaints has captured the laid back, London-spirit of their brand in three scents that “contrast, complement and contradict”. The fragrances – Sunset Riot, Metal Wave and Incense City – are housed in structured square bottles topped with concrete caps. The boxes and labels each feature a polaroid negative of a flower – a design touch intended to showcase the link between fragrance and memory. It’s a collection that has been put together with clear thought and vision, and truthfully, this shows in the fragrances themselves.
CurioNoir is a fragrance brand created by New Zealander, Tiffany Jeans. It’s a brand based on craftsmanship with fragrances presented as Extrait de Parfums and scented candles in handblown glass jars. Each of the fragrances have a personal connection to the founder and it shows – they are all distinct, different and showcase an entirely new point of view, that of Jean’s Maori heritage. When i sniffed through the collection there was one fragrance that really stood out, both because of its striking concept, but also because of its olfactory beauty. That fragrance was Pūroto Rose – the handsome rose.
The concept behind Pūroto Rose is really quite beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I feel as if the only way to give it justice is to quote it directly:
Three distinct scents filled the air at Ngatihaua Witehira, Tiffany’s great grandfather’s, tangi (funeral). The celebration of life with hot soil, the smell of smoke from the hangi (a traditional Maori meal cooked in the ground), and roses which adorned the tables in the food hall.
I told you it was beautiful.
Harmony is balance, and balance is something we often look for in perfumery. After all, perfumery is the harmony of individual ingredients – separate elements made into a harmonious whole. It is through the idea of harmony and balance, through proportion and nuance that the art of perfumery presents odours that smell beautiful, interesting and new.
Niche brand The Harmonist is all about harmony. Following ancient Asian philosophies they present fragrances based on the elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Water and Metal) in two versions: a Yin and a Yang. The idea is that an individual can be guided to their fragrance using the date, time and place of their birth – through this the dominant element is defined. It’s certainly an interesting way on taking a person on an olfactory journey – one that no other brand is doing.
My fragrance of destiny was Guiding Water – a fragrance defined as “a peaceful and natural source of vitality”.
The Luxury Collection is where rebellious niche house Juliette Has a Gun stretches its olfactory legs. Their other offerings sit comfortably between mainstream and niche – they’re made with good quality materials and bring unique twists to very accessible, affable fragrances. The Luxury Collection however, is a bit more serious and has a touch more of an abstract feel to it, bringing a strong sense of niche-ness. It’s where Juliette Has a Gun ditches the cool air and the fun names in exchange for some serious perfumery.
Liquid Illusion (good name – after all, perfume is just a liquid illusion) is the latest addition to the Luxury Collection. It takes its inspiration from heliotropin – a fragrant material that is also found in the drug ecstasy. The idea here, is to present a stimulating fragrance that pairs heliotropin with the luxurious note of iris – something as intense and electrifying as the inky-blue bottle it comes in. The result is something quite intriguing indeed.
Miller Harris has had a very busy year – they’ve launched two capsule collections of fragrances: Scherzo x Tender and Forage (Lost, Wander & Hidden), and to complete the hat trick, they now presents their third collection of fragrances this year: Peau Santal and Powdered Veil. Housed in bottles coated in intriguing shades of pink (baby pink for Powdered Veil and a more ‘nude’ (not a word I like to use because it only represents one type of skin colour, but other descriptors escape me, ‘blush’ maybe?) shade for Peau Santal), these two fragrances celebrate the intimacy and the ritual of glamming up – the lace of dresses, the powder of make-up, and the wood of dressing tables, and wardrobes. They are fragrances with distinct textures, of powder and skin, that arrive perfectly in time for winter. Let’s check them out.
Speed Sniffs are a way to bring you ‘to-the-point’ fragrance reviews that are quick and easy to digest. They are perfume reviews without the faff.
*Unpopular Opinion Klaxon* I like Mon Guerlain and I think a lot of you are being unnecessarily grumpy about it. Yup. I’m not sorry. The way I see it, GUERLAIN has to make fragrances that appeal to the mass market as much as they need to keep the likes of Jicky and L’Heure Bleue on the shelves. They have always taken styles populised by others and given them a Guerlain twist (see Mitsouko, a twist on Coty’s Chypre, for example) and that’s exactly what Mon Guerlain is – a Guerlain take on the caramel, ethyl-maltol intensity of the likes of La Vie est Belle. The difference with the Guerlain? It smells good.
Mon Guerlain is candy floss by way of a Jicky-esque lavender and it is eminently wearable. I find it cosy, delicious and easy to wear in winter. I was not however, so keen on the Florale version that launched earlier this year which, for some reason seemed off somehow. Now we have Mon Guerlain Eau de Toilette, the third instalment in the Mon Guerlain series and the second to launch this year – we can’t accuse GUERLAIN of being lazy, that’s for sure!
Mon Guerlain Eau de Toilette is presented by GUERLAIN as a “citrus oriental” with notes of mandarin, carla lavender, sambac jasmine and vanilla tahitensis. They see it as a scent that presents a freer expression of the GUERLAIN woman – one that is seen through a lens of transparency and freshness. Let’s speed sniff.
It’s not unusual for a fragrance house to redress a classic fragrance for modern times but it’s difficult for them to get the balance right – the balance between maintaining all that makes the fragrance do distinct and special, and providing a fresh twist that makes it attractive to new, younger consumers. CHANEL did it with Nº5, using modern florals to make an entry level interoperation in the form of Nº5 EAU PREMIERE, and switching aldehydes for citrus and musk in Nº5 L’EAU. GUERLAIN did it beautifully with the ill-fated but stunning Shalimar Parfum Initial (amping up the iris, dialling back the leather smoke), but nobody has really done it with a masculine classic, well, until Habit Rouge Dress Code, that is.
Habit Rouge Dress Code is not a new fragrance. It actually launched a few years back (2015 if we are being specific) as a limited edition – a reworked version of Jean-Paul Guerlain’s 1965 original created by Guerlain Perfumer Thierry Wasser. Playing on the dandy character or Habit Rouge, Wasser gives us what Guerlain calls “the neo-dandy’s dress code” in a fragrance more suited to a fashionable lad about town on his vespa than an artistocrat in his sporting reds on a country lane. It’s a fragrance that takes the key elements of Habit Rouge to more vibrant extremes – it’s iconic citrus is fizzier, more electric, whilst its gourmand facets are richer, more textured. Dress Code is cooler, more modern and more audacious.
Dress Code was never previously available in the UK, but this autumn it is making its way across the channel, dressed in handsome camo livery, to take residence exclusively in Harrods, and I for one, am very glad to welcome it to Blighty!