“It is in the summer when I truly feel happy and at peace.”
The weather has been more than a bit funny during the last couple of weeks. Firstly it was unseasonably warm for a couple of days, and over here the first hint of sun and warmth sends us Brits into a shorts, t-shirt and flip-flop wearing frenzy even though it still it isn’t quite warm enough for all of that malarky, and then as if it couldn’t quite make up its mind the weather changed quite considerably.
Following the unexpected warmth there has been a just-as-unusual-for-this-time-of-year spell of cold weather, with heavy snow in some parts of the north. This tease of summer which was quickly clawed back by the cruelness of winter has left me craving the sun, I am a June baby after all and it is in the summer when I truly feel happy and at peace. Another reason I love summer is that it’s the perfect time to rock my favourite florals, but that’s beside the point, the main reason that summer is so good is because its the time where we really get to enjoy the outdoors.
To celebrate the summer season, each year Paul Smith launches a duo (one masculine and one feminine) of summer fragrances called the Paul Smith Sunshine Editions, the scents remain the same every year however the bottles change. Both fragrances “express the end of a sunny summers day” and the masculine edition that I shall be reviewing today certainly leads me to think of warm, sunny days where the soul feels energised and care-free.
Throughout the majority of my perfume journey I have been under the impression that it’s all about the juice with my mantra very much being; ‘nothing else matters except the smell’. But I’m no longer sure that this is entirely true, after all a perfume is a concept, and the best perfumes are the ones where the smell, bottle, name and concept are harmonious with each other. One thing that I have recently discovered is that a bad name can really take away from my overall enjoyment of a perfume. I can hide a crap bottle and I don’t necessarily have to tell people the inspiration behind the perfume I’m wearing, but if the name is bad then things can go sour rapidly.
Take Shalimar for example, could Guerlain have picked a more beautiful and fitting name? Or what about Gorilla Perfume’s ‘Breath of God’? Or on the flip-side, think of Thierry Mugler’s Womanity, the hideous name (sorry Thierry) honestly does make me hesitate from picking up my bottle at times. A bad name can ruin things, just as a good name can be the cherry on top that makes for perfection.
One brand who can always be counted on for an interesting name is Etat Libre d’Orange – they’ve got it all, from Fat Electricians to Magnificent Secretions and Hotel Whores. I think these names are fabulous but I can understand why they might rub some people up the wrong way, they are after all quite risqué. But name-wise Etat Libre d’Orange are at their best when they aren’t trying to be controversial (‘Jasmin et Cigarette’ anyone?) and none have been bestowed with a more perfect name than their latest release – ‘Malaise of the 1970s’.
Malaise of the 1970s may be the latest perfume from the Orange Free State but it is in fact a repackaged version of 2010’s Sex Pistols fragrance created in collaboration with Sephora. Etat Libre d’Orange describe Malaise of the 1970s as being “Inspired by a wealth of seventies pop culture references, from Star Wars to The Stranglers, Malaise of the 1970s captures the resistant and tumultuous spirit of the times. A metallic juice that resonates like the twang of a guitar string, its sharpness reminiscent of safety pins fastened to tartan. A distillation of rebellion, music and raw emotion.” 
Bond No. 9 is the Octomom of the niche fragrance world – they just keep popping ’em out. This spring they will be releasing a total of six, that’s right SIX new fragrances, two of which are inspired by New York City as per the norm and four of which will be joining their I Love New York Collection.
I have been pretty vocal on my thoughts of Bond No. 9 and I stand by the fact that they have more misses than hits, perhaps due to the fact that they have released a whopping 64 fragrances since their inception in 2003, and that a lot of perfumes in the line are derivative, not to mention that they are the worst offenders when it comes to vomiting Swarovski crystals on to perfume bottles… They remind me of the line in the poem about the little girl with the little curl by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; “And when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.”
But that’s not to say that there aren’t any good Bond’s. There are in fact a good few that I would deem bottle worthy; Silver Factory is a remarkably cold and metallic incense, Chinatown is a work of genius (why don’t I own a bottle?) and I will always regret swapping away my beloved bottle of Fire Island, who knew I would miss it so much? So yes, it is true, when Bond No. 9 are good they can be very good.
In time for Spring Bond, No. 9 have released Central Park West, the sixth fragrance to be inspired by a New York park. Central Park West is inspired by “the magnificent greenery” of New York’s “greatest urban grassland” and is a spring-like green and white floral “designed to have the grandeur and largesse of the street itself”. A grand perfume for a grand neighbourhood.
Perfume, like fashion, follows trends and these trends often relate to particular styles of perfumery or even individual notes. We very often see the same genus of perfumes coming on to the market at any one time, for instance fruity florals are everywhere at the moment and I challenge you to find 10 perfumes released in the last year that don’t contain pink pepper. But as with trends in fashion, things in the world of perfumery don’t last long before tastes change once again and a new style comes along. We are fickle creatures after all.
The problem with trends is that they very quickly become boring, and this has very much been the case with oud. Everyone has an oud, everybody from Guerlain to Creed, even Ferrari has one… (no, I’m not joking). A quick search of the Basenotes Fragrance Directory shows that there are in fact 199 fragrances containing the word oud in the title and a 148 which list the noble rot as a note. One can easily come to the conclusion that there are definitely too many ouds and it is easy to become overwhelmed by and even bored with the trend.
Of course, just because there are a lot of ouds on the market doesn’t mean that there isn’t still room for ingenuity and excellent craft, in fact it is quite the opposite, there are some really good ouds out there (just see The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Oud). Last year Mona di Orio created Oud, a wonderfully unique take on oud, and this year Francis Kurkdjian does the same, and his offering could not be more unique.
OUD is the latest perfume to join the Maison Francis Kurkdjian lineup and it really is something very special. Francis Kurkdjian says of his oud offering: “My oud belongs to a marble palace engraved with gold, set under a dark-blue-star-studded night. It is the fine sand of the capricious sand dune, a fragrant harmattan in the silence of the desert.” Where most ouds are coloured in deep reds or rich browns, Kurkdjian’s is hued a pure cerulean blue and right from the beginning this OUD makes it clear that it is not your typical oud perfume.
“I love a perfume that makes me smile – Fils de Dieu brings the smiles, and plenty of them”
Despite their often hyper-sexed and occasionally misdirected marketing techniques, Etat Libre d’Orange are one of the most solid niche brands out there. They offer a line of well made, interesting, unusual and affordable fragrances that simply cannot be matched. The Etat Libre d’Orange war cry is “Parfum est mort, vive le parfum” (“perfume is dead, long live perfume”) and they are going a very long way to resurrect the concept of fun into the landscape of modern perfumery, a landscape that can so often become devoid of any delight.
I have said many times before that I am a self-proclaimed Etat Libre d’Orange fanboy, I simply cannot help it, I find their compositions to be filled with humour, occasional, nay regular genius, surprise and wonder. Each one is an essay in pushing the boundaries of perfume, turning familiar genres on their heads and firmly sticking two figures up at the bland, the trite and the cheap.
Fils de Dieu or ‘Fils de Dieu Du Riz et Des Agrumes’ (Son of God of Rice and Citrus Fruits) to use its full name is one of two latest releases from everyone’s favourite French olfactory freedom fighters, the other being Bijou Romantique. It was created by Ralf Schwieger and the concept behind it is interesting to say the least. Also available under the more controversial name of ‘Philippine Houseboy’, Fils de Dieu “is the golden eye that reflects beauty and conflict, rapture and pain. It is an emotional fragrance that requires a sympathetic connection between the server and the served, the giver and the taker, and the willingness to exchange roles.” 
Today The Candy Perfume Boy and Olfactoria’s Travels have teamed up in a display of perfume synchronicity to review the latest release from Omani luxury house Amouage, an amber named ‘Opus VI’. Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels is well known for her status as ‘The Queen of Amber’, a title which she has most definitely earned so please do head on over to her blog to read her take on Opus VI.
Amouage is a line that I have decided to take my time over. I have sampled almost everything briefly and others in quite a bit of depth. I have even fallen head over heels for two, namely Gold Woman and Honour Woman. The reason I am taking my sweet time with Amouage, a line which I love by the way, is simply because each of their perfumes are so rich and complex they demand a great deal of attention. This is great for me because i get to unravel the mysteries of Amouage over a long period of time, and soak up all of the wonder and magic they have to offer. However, one of the major downsides of this slow-paced Amouage sampling is that I am quite unfamiliar with The Library Collection.
The Library Collection currently consists of six opuses, each of which “represents the insatiable quest for knowledge” and “celebrates integrity, uniqueness, and a love of the arts” . Opus VI is the latest addition to the collection and is inspired by Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his greatest movie along with The Science of Sleep (I have to say that – I’m in love with Gael García Bernal). Opus VI was created by Dora Arnaud & Pierre Negrin under the creative direction of Christopher Chong and is described as “an amber, leather and woody fragrance inspired by the destruction and reinvention of knowledge and memories. Symbolising the end of a love affair.”  Very deep stuff indeed.
Perfume fate seemed to happen last week. As I was planning The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Oud, the postman bought me two oud-ie goodies – the first being my new bottle of Tom Ford’s Oud Wood and the second being a sample of By Kilian’s latest perfume ‘Amber Oud’. So it seems like last week was fated to be the week of the oud, and in keeping with that theme it only seems fitting to give Amber Oud a whirl.
Firstly, By Kilian has to be commended for their PR practices. Last year they offered members of The Kilian Club on their Facebook Page a complete set of samples from the L’Oeuvre Noire collection and now they have been kind enough to send everyone a sample of their latest fragrance ‘Amber Oud’, with the sole intent of introducing it to Kilian fans. Now, that’s good PR!
Amber Oud is inspired by greek mythology and is the latest addition to By Kilian’s Arabian Nights collection. It was created by Calice Becker and joins Incense Oud, Pure Oud and Rose Oud to become the fourth pillar within Kilian’s oud-quartet. Kilian says that Amber Oud “is borned in Heliades tears”  and with this new fragrance his objective “was to deconstruct/reconstruct the traditional “Amber” by taking the animalistic qualities of a dark “Oud” and adding richness through an overdose of “Vanilla” from Madagascar and “Benzoin” from Laos.” 
“The smell of the English countryside in spring time”
L.I.L.Y is the latest fragrance from British fashion designer Stella McCartney. It very much marks a break from tradition for McCartney, whose other fragrances have all be a variation on a theme, namely that of her eponymous debut fragrance ‘Stella’. I love Stella, as far as designer fragrances go it is pretty well done and my sister wears it religiously so I have a strong connection to it, but I am very glad that McCartney is branching out into new fragrant territory with L.I.L.Y.
Where Stella was an ode to rose, L.I.L.Y is, as the name suggests, an ode to the lily of the valley. Lily of the valley is a flower which yields no scented oil yet so evocatively represents the smell of the English countryside in spring time. It’s both beautiful to look at, and to smell, and it represents all that is innocent and virtuous about the world. Lily of the valley is simply one of the world’s most precious of joys.
L.I.L.Y is described as an “evocative scent made up of Stella’s most treasured moments” . Its name stems from her father’s nickname for her mother; ‘Linda I Love You’, and the Lily of the Valley used in the fragrance is reminiscent of her wedding bouquet. For L.I.L.Y, McCartney has aimed to create a perfume that is personal to her, rather than Stella McCartney ‘the brand’. In this world of hyper-focus-grouped perfumes, I can’t help but find the personal touch applied to L.I.L.Y utterly refreshing.
The appointment of Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius as the new face of Mugler’s flagship masculine fragrance A*Men last year marked a new chapter in the brand’s superhero saga. Pistorious plays the part of the ‘Bionic Fawn’ and he perfectly embodies the Muglerian style of high-energy futurism taken to the limit.
Thierry Mugler is known for bold statements and the use of a Paralympian, who just happens to be the hottest name in sport right now, is an encouraging display of diversity from a major brand. If only others would follow suit! Pistorius is an inspiring person and an inspired choice for the brand. He very much deserves his place alongside the likes of Jerry Hall, Eva Mendes and Naomi Watts as a citizen of Planet Mugler.
For 2012, the year of the London Olympic Games, Pistorius reprises his role of the Mugler man for the brand’s latest fragrance ‘A*Men Pure Shot’. A*Men Pure Shot, created by Jacques Huclier, is the latest limited edition flanker of the original A*Men which was released in 1996. It follows Pure Coffee, Pure Malt, Pure Havane and A*Men Le Goût de Parfum in the A*Men series, and it’s fair to say that it is the most unique and surprising incarnation of A*Men so far.
Inspired by Oscar Pistorious, Mugler’s “modern day hero”, Pure Shot is Mugler’s entry into the plethora of Olympic-themed sport fragrances that we’re going to see this year. But as we know, Mugler does things a little bit differently and has to be given Kudos for not including ‘sport’ in the name, and for actually creating a sport-themed fragrance that doesn’t smell bland or cheap. Mugler describes Pure Shot as “a performance booster for seekers of strong, inspiring scents”.
Guerlain is one of my favourite perfume houses, heck it may be most people’s favourite perfume house, and they’ve certainly had their up’s and down’s over the years. But despite many blips, discontinuations and the odd controversy, things definitely seem to be looking up over at Maison Guerlain. One of the smartest moves they have made in recent times is snatch-up the very talented Thierry Wasser for their in-house perfumer.
Since joining Guerlain, M. Wasser has created; two new major feminines, one major masculine, a new cologne and several flankers, limited editions and exclusives. He has tinkered with Guerlain’s heritage whilst adding his own contemporary stamp for the future.
February sees the release of two new flankers signed by M. Wasser; Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau and Homme L’Eau Boisée, and as with everything he has done since he started with Guerlain (OK maybe not everything) they are top notch. ‘L’Eau’ very much seems to be the fashion at Guerlain at the moment, but to write these two new editions of as simply lighter, watered down versions of the originals would be a grave mistake.