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.
By now we all know my thoughts on the House of MUGLER. I am and always will be, a lifelong MUGLER fanboy. I am indoctrinated in their ideology. I am a card-carrying member of the Muglerati. If you ask me where I’m from, I will tell you that I was born from a star in the far reaches of the Muglerverse. The brand is my favourite and their fragrances are some of my most-beloved. I am MUGLER, smell me roar.
So it’s always exciting for me when MUGLER launch a new fragrance and this year hasn’t been short in terms of output from my favourite brand. So far we’ve had two Alien flankers (Musc Mysterieux and Eau Sublime), some delicious Angel-flavoured chocolates, oh we can’t forget the entirely brand new feminine pillar fragrance in the form of Aura. It’s been a busy year on Planet Mugler, for sure, and there’s no let up yet, because the brand has just added the ninth fragrance to their exclusive Les Exceptions range: the intriguingly named Wonder Bouquet.
So you may have guessed from my little Shawn Mendes Signature review a week or so ago that celebrity fragrances are having somewhat of a resurgence. I know, I know, you’re all groaning at the thought (I can hear your moans carried on the soft, despairing winds of the internet) but I promise you that this time, things are different. Our dear celebrities have realised that consumers will no longer be fooled and they, or their teams, need to put in a bit of effort to actually make fragrances that are interesting. Just look at SJP Stash for proof, and even Mr Mendes, who isn’t wildly original in his scented exploits, but at least made something rather wearable and lovely. Now it’s time for Katy Perry’s turn to up her scent game.
I like Katy Perry. She is fun. Her music feels quite self aware and its catchy hooks are hard not to love. But Katy Perry has come along way from the bubblegum pop of I Kissed a Girl and her latest album, Witness, is a more mature sound that cements Perry firmly in her ‘serious artist’ phase. Whilst I enjoy her music, Katy Perry’s fragrant offerings have been somewhat lacklustre for me, even though some have been packaged in cat-shaped bottles (I bloody love cats), but all of that is set to change because INDI, her latest, is a massive departure from Perry’s earlier offering. INDI is an “androgynous” fragrance that comes with the tagline “be different together”. It reportedly boasts 11 types of musk and takes inspiration from Tom Ford’s Black Orchid – intrigued yet?
I do a lot of walking throughout the year. There’s something restorative about simply putting one foot in front of the other in the great outdoors that just helps keep the mind healthy. My favourite time of year to walk is autumn, especially in the woods. I love the way the leaves carpet the ground in their patchwork colours – the way they rustle mischeviously underfoot, moving in a tide of oranges, reds and browns. I love the way the air smells cold, and of smoke. I love the trees and their peeling barks, and the way they stand so silently like stoic totems. A walk in the woods during autumn is a really evocative adventure and it seems as if Jo Malone London think so too!
Jo Malone London is spoiling us this year. Instead of just one new addition to their collection, they’re giving us two! This little capsule collection is called The English Oak and includes two fragrances (English Oak & Hazelnut and English Oak & Redcurrant) that showcase a unique and exclusive roasted oak absolute that is sourced from “washed wood chips [which] are roasted at high temperatures, yielding up a rich, deep and smoky-sweet absolute”. Both scents were created by perfumer Yann Vasnier, who previously created the brand’s Bloomsbury Set collection. The idea is to present a different kind of wood in fragrance – forget your sandalwoods and your cedar woods, this is the noble and wise old oak, and it lends itself to perfumery in two very intriguing ways.
Just when you thought celebrity fragrances were dead, one of the hottest stars in music drops a debut fragrance. OK, so celebrity fragrances were never dead and actually, they’re seeing a bit of a resurgence and this revival of the genre is very much in the spirit of ‘we take this very seriously now in order to atone for our past trashy transgressions, OK’. I’m talking about the likes of SJP’s Stash (which could be niche, let’s face it) and even Katy Perry’s Indi, which is not your typical celebuscent either. So instead of every quasi-reality star and their cat launching a scent, real celebrities are doing it and they’re doing it rather well, which brings me nicely on to the subject of Shawn Mendes Signature.
If you don’t know Shawn Mendes (where have you been?!) he is a Canadian singer-songwriter who found fame through the social media platform Vine. At the time of writing, Mr. Mendes is 19 years old, has two platinum albums under his belt, literally millions of record sales, and if the concert I attended as part of the launch is anything to go by, lots of screaming fans. He’s also really handsome and he makes me sick. I joke, I joke! He is actually very talented (did I mention handsome?) and whilst I may have not been entirely familiar with his music before the launch I am now, and you know what? I’m feeling the Mendes vibe.
The volume of the output from the house of GUERLAIN is staggering. Last year they launched 15 fragrances and for 2017 they have launched 11 so far, which includes their blockbuster new signature fragrance Mon Guerlain. It’s easy to see why they are launching so many scents – not only do they wish to expand and make more of a name for themselves, but GUERLAIN have also amassed quite the collection of collections, each of which cries out for regular new addition. Where would we be without a new Aqua Allegoria or L’Art et Matiere fragrance each year? And what would La Petite Robe Noire do if she didn’t have a new dress for the season? Whilst not every single one of these fragrances can be a GUERLAIN masterpiece, some do strike gold, which brings me nicely on to today’s subject – something new created by GUERLAIN perfumer Delphine Jelk under the creative direction of GUERLAIN chief nose, Thierry Wasser.
For their latest fragrance, Lui, GUERLAIN are taking cues from the past. The name and bottle may look familiar to you and that’s because they pay homage to a GUERLAIN classic (1929’s Liù) with the feminine name and iconic tea caddy bottle of the original subverted into something more modern. Lui is billed as a fragrance that is “not entirely feminine, nor truly masculine”. GUERLAIN call it “the perfume for a new gender order” and describes this new unisex scent as having an “ambiguous fragrance trail” that is “based on benzoin”. Let’s be real, the idea of unisex perfumery is nothing knew, nor is it particularly unusual in this day and age, especially since the rise of niche has really blown the doors open on the idea that a perfume can be worn by whomever fancies it. But heck, it may not be a new idea but I’m always here to embrace the lack of gendering in a perfume. So let’s put Lui to the sniff test.
I’ll be perfectly honest and say that I’ve found the fragrances from the house of Thameen to be a bit hit or miss. I fell head over heels for the dry dusty rose of Noorolain Taif, but others in the collection left me cold. I think that the concept of fragrances inspired by famous jewels is really evocative and the presentation has this cool clash where royal blue bottles in a classic shape clash against the modernism of their black, spiked caps. What’s more, the bottles really glow when they hit the light. I just felt that some of the fragrances weren’t as dynamic as perhaps the presentation suggested they might be.
Fast forward to Thameen’s latest launch and a pleasant surprise. This launch takes its inspiration (and its name) from the Cora sun-drop diamond – the largest, yellow, pear-shaped diamond in the world (racking up an impressive 110.3 carats and forming between 1 and 3 billion years ago – no biggie), so it’s no surprise that the fragrance itself is a rather large and showy scent. Described by Thameen as a fragrance “suffused with phosphorescence”, The Cora takes the traditional white floral and injects it with an entire sun’s worth of light.
This year I was lucky enough to once again judge two fragrance categories at the Stylist Best Beauty Awards. It’s an honour to judge and what I love most about it, is that I always discover something new and exciting that I haven’t sniffed before. This year my discovery was the Tom Daxon line of fragrances. Now these are not new, nor are they fragrances that are difficult to get hold of, in fact it would have been super easy for me to try them long before now, I just didn’t get around to sniffing them with all the other stuff that’s out. So I’m officially late to the Tom Daxon party, but I am super chuffed to have been invited because there is some seriously good perfumery going on here.
Tom Daxon the brand is the brainchild of Tom Daxon Bowers who, at the age of 27 created his very own fragrance line. But fragrance and cosmetics are things that run in the family, and his mother spent time working as the Creative Director of Molton Brown. But Tom Daxon is very much the vision of the brand owner, taking inspiration from individual ingredients to create beautiful fragrances boasting the best synthetic and natural materials around. Working with Perfumers in Grasse, Tom Daxon Bowers has crafted a brand that is cohesive, distinct and abstract, but most of all he has created some truly beautiful fragrances.
There’s a clean, structural quality to the Tom Daxon collection that filters down from the stark minimalism of the sleek, architectural bottles to the fragrances themselves, which present bold accords with remarkable clarity and modernity. As an example of this I’m reviewing the two fragrances that won at this year’s Stylist Best Beauty Awards; Iridium (Best Niche Fragrance) and Magnolia Heights (Best Floral Fragrance). I think you’ll agree that they are very worthy winners indeed!
Tom Ford knows his way around the note of oud. Within his own brand he has a mini-collection of oud fragrances amongst his many Private Blends, each of which takes the style of oud in a very different direction. He’s also the man behind YSL’s M7 which was one of the first mainstream fragrances to promote the use of oud (whether it was the first is up for debate). So it’s safe to say that oud is very much a signature of the Tom Ford brand and it’s a style of fragrance (and I say style instead of note because it’s really more of a genre than a singular ingredient).
The latest addition to Tom Ford’s oud oeuvre is Oud Minérale – a fragrance that intends to approach oud from a much fresher angle. The brand describe it as a scent that merges “rare and precious oud with the fresh exuberance of the ocean”, which may lead one to think that perhaps this is an oud too far. After all, smoky, animalic, middle eastern oud is on the polar opposite end of the fragrance spectrum to anything remotely aquatic. But to think that, whilst justified, would not be correct because Oud Minérale is a clever little composition that manages to find the common ground between these two opposing styles.
Comme des Garçons are real innovators when it comes to the olfactory arts. They’ve created some of the most unique and daring mainstream fragrances on the market and within their more niche lines have explored single notes of themes with the painstaking focus of a curator. They are a brand that does not lend itself to trends or marketing influence, they simply make beautiful and intriguing things. Much in the same that Rei Kawakubo plays with the form in her fashion, Comme des Garçons aims to subvert structure in their olfactory output too, always with fascinating results.
For their latest launch, Comme des Garçons are exploring “destruction, construction and creation” by taking inspiration from one of the most ubiquitous materials on earth: concrete. Named after the material, Concrete the fragrance aims to bring new contrasts to the idea of a material that is known for its solid composition, demolishing all preconceptions. So if you’re expecting something rocky, hard and brutalist in this fragrance, you may want to think again…
Before we get on to the scent itself it’s impossible not to pay homage to the awesomeness of the bottle, which is actually coated in concrete. That’s right, actual concrete! This gives a satisfying heft to the signature pebble design but also a really surprising softness that is tactile and pleasant. I love it and what’s more, it comes covered in bubblewrap to protect it, hinting at the fact that there may just be a hidden fragility to this usually hard and robust material. Genius.