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In the Welsh language “hwyl” is a “stirring feeling of emotional motivation and energy” but it is the solace of Japanese forests that Aēsop cite as inspiration for their latest fragrance that carries this Welsh name. Now, if you don’t know Aēsop you are missing out. They make the most beautiful skincare and body products, fusing together nature and science for a range of treats for the face, body, hands and more! What’s more, all of the Aēsop products smell heavenly, not to mention their actual fragrances which are much better than the offerings from most brands of a similar ilk. In fact, they’re really rather good!

I must admit that the inspirations for Hwyl are somewhat confusing. When I smell the fragrance I can see the Japanese hinoki woods but I can’t reconcile that with the Welsh name, especially when the brand appears to think of isolation and solace, whilst the name suggests enthusiasm and energy. It all seems a little bit muddled, almost as if Aēsop just liked the sound of the name, rather than any of its deeper meanings. That said, Hwyl the fragrance is anything but muddled and it is made entirely in the manner of the brand, which is to say that it is a thoroughly exacting piece of work presented with little fuss.

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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.

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I have a lot of time for Atelier Cologne. They’re a brand with a very clear direction and whilst they have an absolutely massive range (over 30 fragrances!!), which includes an impressive number of fragrances across many sub-collections, they don’t feel as if they are overdoing it. Whether it’s the glorious never-ending citrus tones of their neo-colognes or the unconventional exoticism of their oriental collection, Atelier Cologne are making beautiful, well-composed fragrances high on the wearability factory. Absolutely nobody can fault them for that!

So we’ve established that Atelier Cologne know how to make perfumes that smell good, but are they actually adding anything new to the world of perfumery? There is so much scent out there and the big question is whether Atelier Cologne are making anything particularly unique. The short answer is ‘yes’ and the perfect example of this is their latest offering, the intriguing, nay, surprising ‘Café Tuberosa‘ – a fragrance that pairs two completely polar opposite materials together: coffee and tuberose. How’s that for new and unique?

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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!

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“It’s the scent of your lover on your skin after sex.”

That’s how Roland Mouret described his debut fragrance to me at the launch this week, and when that is the first thing one hears about a perfume, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the scent is going to be good. Roland Mouret is known for his use of draping and asymmetrical folds in his designs, but he’s also known for form-fitting sensuality. So with sensuality and sexuality in mind, it’s no surprise that he turned to Etat Libre d’Orange, the most x-rated (and cheeky) of perfume houses, to create his debut fragrance.

That fragrance is the unisex ‘Une Amourette‘ (‘A Fling’) and it is created by Perfumer Daniela Andrier, who has been responsible for all of the mostly iris-centric Prada perfumes. I’ll say now that Une Amourette smells nothing like any other Andrier perfume – so much so, in fact, that if you’re familiar with her style, you will second guess whether this is one of hers. A bubbling, suede-like iris this is not, no. Une Amourette is described as “seductive” and “powerful”. It’s a scent that “leaves it mark as you move” – a statement piece carefully crafted to accentuate your body and draw attention to it as you strut through your everyday life. Everywhere is a catwalk, never forget that, Dear Reader.

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I’ve learned to expect nothing but boldness from Beaufort London. As perfume brands go, they’re up there with the best of them when it comes to distinctiveness. In the politest possible terms, Beaufort fragrances are stinky – they have very distinct signatures and all fit the aesthetic of the brand, which is darkly historical with a modern twist. Imagine if Guy Ritchie did perfume, then that’s Beaufort London. Where so many niche brands get the look and concept right, but fall down at the juice, Beaufort London have never failed to make intriguing perfume (just see last year’s fascinating Fathom V for proof) and they’re not scared of the less than pleasant aspects of history, and olfaction either. Beaufort London fragrances may not be for everyone, but tell me, Dear Reader, what great things in life are?

Beaufort London launched with the ‘Come Hell or High Water’ collection, which took inspiration from Britain’s nautical heritage. This year the brand is adding a brand new collection called ‘Revenants’ which remembers historical figures through the art of olfaction. The first launch within the Revenants collection is Iron Duke and it is inspired by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), who is described as a “celebrated horseman, warrior politician and sartorial pioneer”. It’s a fully-worked out concept with a beautiful promo shot by Matthew Seed and a bottle inscribed with a horse motif designed by tattoo artist Robert Gisbourne-Ashby. Iron Duke the fragrance is billed as a “strikingly powerful fragrance with animalic depths”, which certainly piqued my interest. Shall we dive in and see if it really is as filthy as it sounds?

Scherzo x Tender

What happens when you give two perfumers the same passage of text and ask them to make a fragrance with no olfactive brief? The answer is two fragrances that are as different as day and night and it’s an experiment undertaken by a surprising house: Miller Harris. Now, if you’ve not been sniffing the recent launches from Miller Harris you have been missing out. They’ve been very quietly doing some phenomenal work (I point your noses in the direction of Rose Silence and Le Cèdre, to name just two, but trust me when I say that there are many more exciting things to sniff) and it really seems that they are forging an identity for themselves, after years of muddled direction. Miller Harris now has a personality and a character, and I’m here for it.

For their latest project (launching in January 2018), Miller Harris is releasing two fragrances inspired by a passage of text from F.Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. The idea is that the brand handed this passage to two perfumers, Mathieu Nardin (the creator of lots of their recent works such as the aforementioned Rose Silence and Le Cèdre – check him out, you must) and Bertrand Duchaufour (y’all know who he is) and asked them to make a fragrance each inspired by the text. That’s it. No olfactive direction, no concept, just simple literary inspiration. The result is Scherzo (Mathieu) and Tender (Bertrand) and they really are quite surprising.