Do You Believe in Fate?
Do You Believe in Fate?

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.

Aqua Vitae
“The Space Between Us”

There are some niche brands out there that just get it – they know how to offer interesting, well-crafted perfumes that are both easily wearable and suitably intellectually stimulating. Maison Francis Kurkdjian is one of such brand, and having thoroughly explored each and every corner of this ‘maison’ I can honestly say that I’m yet to come across a single dud.

This, of course, is no surprise seeing as the patriarch of the Maison is none other than venerable perfume Francis Kurkdjian. At a recent Perfume Lovers London event Kurkdjian said that it’s the stories behind the scents that make them what they are, musing that Shalimar wouldn’t be Shalimar without its name and that scents cannot me detached from the names they are bestowed. Perhaps this is why his brand is so enjoyable – each scent tells a story.

“It was one afternoon on Formentera, in the Balearic Islands, that the idea of Aqua Vitae came to Francis Kurkdjian. Riding an old motorbike, taking it slowly in view of the extreme heat, the air on his face was deliciously cool. The sun intensified the fragrances of nature around him. Aqua Vitae, the water of life, when life is quite simply beautiful, an extremely sensitive sensuality enveloped with an uncontained freshness.”

His latest perfume – Aqua Vitae – tells the story of “the space between us” and takes its name from the water of vitality. Created to evoke “a magic breath” and “the shiver of pleasure on the back of the neck before something wonderful occurs” Aqua Vitae is a fragrance that casts a beautiful golden light, exuding serenity and peace.

The Silver Song of Spring
The Silver Song of Spring

L’Artisan Parfumeur is one of those brands that took a long while to click with me. I started off exploring two of their cult classics – Tea for Two and Patchouli Patch – both of which left me cold. I then left the brand alone for a few years whilst I sailed off around the perfume world trying anything and everything that wasn’t ‘L’Artisan’.

Fate brought me back to L’Artisan Parfumeur many years later when a friend dragged me into the Covent Garden boutique. It was there that I tried and loved Bertrand Duchaufour’s ode to the clash of East and West that is Traversée du Bosphore for the very first time and after that, well after that I fell down the rabbit hole grabbing and adoring everything that L’Artisan and Duchaufour had done together.

The latest perfume launch from L’Artisan is not a Bertrand Duchaufour creation but that’s not a bad thing in the slightest. Created by perfumer Dora Baghriche-Arnaud this latest perfume joins the brand’s Grasse collection of candles and scented gloves that takes inspiration from “the spiritual home of fragrance, in Provence”.

Named Caligna (meaning to ‘court’ or ‘flirt’ in the Provençal tongue) – the first perfume in this collection is an ode to the Grasse countryside and according to L’Artisan Parfumeur it “evokes a warm breeze blowing over the land, a sense of freedom in the wild open spaces, a lightness of being with laughter echoing into the distance.”

A Definite Article
A Definite Article

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.”

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.

Amyris/Dior
“I dress men and women with my perfume, wrap them with my art and my love.” – Francis Kurkdjian [1]
Despite coming to the Maison Francis Kurkdjian party a little later than mostI can safely say that I am pretty much hooked. Like many I have admired perfumer Francis Kurkdjian from afar, appreciating and enjoying his mainstream creations for designer brands such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior and Elie Saab, but it is his Maison with its ‘scented lifestyle’ approach that truly cements M. Kurkdjian as a true talent.

Kurkdjian says of his line: “The range is like creating a wardrobe. You go from casual to evening to couture. And in my vision, what’s missing is a daily ready-to-wear perfume” [2] and with his latest feminine and masculine duo ‘Amyris’ Kurkdjian has filled this void with two suitably pret-a-porter perfumes for the everyday guy and gal on the go.

“Its head is in Jamaica, and its heart in Florence. The Amyris duo evolves somewhere between the flamboyance of the sun and the vibration of the earth.” [3]

Both Amyris scents are centred around notes of Jamaican Amyris (the Jamaican tree which exudes elemi) and Iris from Florence. Each feels like an extension of Kurkdjian’s designer work taken to a niche level of quality where “instant hit” style of mainstream fragrances is traded for the slow burning love of niche perfumery.

PG22 Dhjenné
PG22 Dhjenné – Delicious Desert

Parfumerie Générale is a curious outfit. Perfumer Pierre Guillaume has a penchant for heavy, gourmand orientals that very often sit precariously on the divide between the delicious and the indigestible. Personally, whilst I respect the quality and artistry of the PG fragrances I must admit that I find this style somewhat difficult to stomach and as yet haven’t found any of M. Guillaume’s offerings tasty, loveable or bottle worthy.

Despite the fact that the brand is classified in my brain as ‘interesting but not for me’ I am always keen to see what PG is up to. Quality is quality right? And in this world where quality and innovation is often a second thought to the quick-buck marketing campaigns, true artistry is not to be scoffed at. Luckily for me my perseverance has paid off, as it is with his latest release Djhenné that Pierre Guillaume has won me over.

Djhenné was launched in 2012 to celebrate the brand’s 10th birthday. Taking its name from the North African oasis city, Djhenné is a warm, aromatic fragrance that strikes the right balance between dry woods and herbs and the delicious gourmand note of cocoa. I warn you dear reader, this is one is far too easy to digest…

L'Homme Infini
The Infinite Man

Yesterday, in honour of Movember, I took a look at some of my favourite barbershop scents in The Candy Perfume Boy’s Movember Barbershop Quartet. Alongside some of the old favourites and classics I included a brand new fragrance launching this month that is as barbershop and gentlemanly as the best of them, albeit in an atypical way; L’Homme Infini by Divine.

Divine is not a fragrance house that I have had a huge amount of exposure to in the past. I do know that two of their masculines (L’Homme Sage and L’Homme de Coeur) are cult favourites amongst male fumeheads, and smelling the samples I have it’s easy to see why; each is a contemporary and confident take on classic masculine styles of perfumery.

L’Homme Infini (The Infinite Man) is the latest fragrance to join Divine’s stable of masculines. Created by Yann Vasnier (Bang, L’Homme de Coeur, L’Homme Sage, Anima Dulcis and Santal Blush) and is described using words such as “serene” and “tender”. To me it feels like a fragrance of balance, with just the right proportions of rugged manly things and soft gentleness to create something that plays to the many contrasts of the modern man.

Mr. Butterworth & Mr. Ford
Two Handsome Men

Mr. Butterworth, my rather lovely partner-in-crime and Mr. Ford, the dashing designer behind Tom Ford go hand-in-hand. Well, not literally of course. I know that you know that I’d never allow that kind of shenanigans! What I mean is that, whilst not being a fumenerd like you are I, Mr. Butterworth does have a certain penchant for fragrances bearing Mr. Ford’s name.

If you were to take a peek into mine and Mr. Butterworth’s bathroom you would find a big collection of perfumes and although we share a lot of scents there is most definitely a ‘his ‘n’ hers’ thing going on. So if you look hard enough you will see a small contingent of masculine fragrances that belong solely to the Butterworth (although I do occasionally raid his stash), and three of his favourites are by Tom Ford.

Tom Ford currently has four masculine fragrances and about a million unisex private blends to choose from. Mr. Butterworth, with his ever-discerning taste, has found love for Tom Ford for Men, Oud Wood and Grey Vetiver, you could say that he’s a little bit obsessed. Should I be worried? Let’s just say that I will be keeping a close eye on him next time we’re near the Tom Ford counter

It may not be a perfume but I'm sure that it's not safe to drink...
It may not be a perfume but I’m pretty sure that it’s not safe to drink…

I like Juliette Has a Gun. They have succeeded in producing relatively artistic fragrances with good quality ingredients at an affordable price (lets face it £59 for 50ml is practically free by today’s niche standards) and they straddle the line between designer and niche fragrances quite happily. For these reasons I find it utterly baffling that they would decide to launch something as naff as Not a Perfume.

In 2010 the man behind Juliette Has a Gun (Romano Ricci) made the bold decision to shake things up with the brand by following the Escentric Molecules school of thought and create a non-fragrance containing only one aroma compound, and as the name suggests Not a Perfume is, well, not a perfume.

Ricci opted to use the rich, ambery ingredient Cetalox, or Ambroxan as it is sometimes known, for Not a Perfume, stating that: “usually used in perfumery as a back note, I have decided for once that it would play the lead role…because it is one of my favourite ingredients…the result is minalimst, elegant, pure” [1] Oh and it is “entirely allergen free” [2] too…

…You may not be able to see it dear reader, but my right eyebrow just met my hairline.