The raw materials in the perfumes we wear are fascinating but they can often be confusing and inaccessible. In Material Focus I try to demystify these essential building blocks of perfumery, covering how they smell and how they’re used.
Let’s be real for a second, it can sometimes be utterly mystifying to read a notes list. Often you’ll stumble across materials that you’ve never heard of and some that frankly, don’t exist (“black gardenia” anyone?!). You see, many of these materials aren’t things we encounter in every day life, so it can be hard to place them, and when we can’t place them, or relate to them, they can feel meaningless. I’m all about making perfume accessible, so in this new series I’ll be looking at some of the nifty aroma chemicals that are used widely in perfumery, covering how they smell and how they’re used, so when you encounter them in the wild, you know exactly what they are.
Iconic, game changing, history making, and totally awesome luxury perfume brand Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. We’re big a fan of the brand here at Fume Chat so we thought we’d gatecrash the party and say “bon anniversaire” by chatting all things Frédéric Malle and of course, sniffing some of our favourites. Listen to the episode below the jump!
Candy Crush is where I write about scent-related things that I’m currently obsessed with.
This week my Candy Crush is a celebratory limited edition from Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. Before we get to that, let’s talk about the brand for a second. Celebrating 20 years this year, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is perhaps the most important and game-changing perfume brand to launch this side of the millennium. From its launch in 200, Malle brought a unique point of view to the industry and a revolutionary approach that put both the perfume, and the perfumer at the very centre of everything. Malle set the tone and standard for all other niche brands that followed.
It was a breath of fresh air, or maybe fresh perfume.
I’m always crushing on something scented or other. My nose knows no limits. Candy Crush is where I showcase the beautifully scented things I’m crushing on right now so you can hopefully develop a crush too.
I love Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. It is, hands down, one of my favourite fragrance brands and I’ve said many times before that it’s one of those rare cases where I would happily own every single fragrance in the collection. Honestly, there isn’t a single dud in the entire line and that too, is quite rare. Malle has curated a fine collection of scents – perfumes created by the greatest perfumers and presented without fuss, allowing the fragrances to speak for themselves. They are some of the best, if not the very best perfumes on the market – fact.
I’ve think I’ve hammered the point home, haven’t I? If I haven’t, let me summarise: Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is amazing. The end.
The purpose of these olfactory deconstructions (see Iris and Vetiver) is to understand a raw material used in perfumery by dissecting it into its many facets. By experiencing the many nuances, one starts to gain an appreciation for how it is used within a wider composition and how it can be utilised to create interesting and novel effects. Such is the magic of perfumery – where one distinct material can bring so much more to a fragrance than its odour profile, shifting and changing as it tessellates with other notes to create things that are more than the sum of their parts.
Today’s deconstruction is a widely used material: patchouli. I chose patchouli because it’s a material found in so many fragrances, many of which utilise it as a supporting act as opposed to the star that takes top billing. I also picked it because it’s a tricky note to love, due largely to its associations with head shops and hippies, not to mention how abrasive it can be as a smell. But patchouli is so much more than a new age oil, it’s actually a fascinating and multifaceted material that deserves a lot of attention – and today we are going to give it that attention!
I may have said it before but Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is one of the very few fragrances brands where I’d happily own a bottle of each and every scent in the collection. I have many, many favourites and see the collection as one of the most finely curated out there. As a Creative Director, Frederic Malle has a real knack for bringing out the best in the perfumers he works with, resulting in wearable fragrances that tread the line between classic and modern perfectly. In short, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is one of the very best perfume brands on the market and you can come at me if you think otherwise…
“At a party on Paris’ rive gauche, a woman’s fur coat is lifted from her bare shoulders, exposing her neck to the candlelight. Aware of many eyes upon her, she pauses, smiling to herself, before emerging like a conqueror from the shadows.”
Malle’s latest fragrance is intriguingly-named Music for a While. Created by perfumer Carlos Benaïm (who also penned Malle’s Eau de Magnolia – one of my absolute favourites in the collection), Music for a While feels like somewhat of a break from tradition for Malle in the sense that it is quite a fun fragrance. It’s almost as if Malle is repenting for the erotic baroque nature of their last edition, the Alber Elbaz collaboration Supersitious (another favourite – I told you I had many!) and is cleaning up their collection with something a little bit more frivolous. I tell you what – I am here for it!
Well that was the year that was! 2017 is finally drawing to a close and I think it would be fair to say that it has been a year unlike any other. Perfume-wise, it has been once again, an incredibly busy year, more so than any other in fact, with a big cohort of mainstream brands launching new pillar fragrances this year – the likes of MUGLER, GUERLAIN, CHANEL (all capitalised for some reason) and Hermès, just to name a few. There have been flankers, celebrity scents, and ridiculous bottles aplenty, making for an interesting and fragrant year.
Seeing as the blog had a total makeover in 2017, this year I’ve decided to rejig The Candies a little bit too. Normally I would pick my best feminine, masculine and unisex fragrances from the mainstream and niche arms of the industry however, year-on-year I have found it harder to fit my favourites into these categories. The problem being that nowadays, the gender lines have blurred considerably within the realms of perfume, especially in niche. Also, I’ve said many times that a fragrance has no gender so it seems silly to categorise my awards as such . So this year I’ve simply picked ten fragrances – five mainstream and five niche, that each take the title of the best perfumes of the year, presented in no particular order.
In terms of other changes, there’s now a ‘Top Candy’ which goes to my favourite perfume of the year (it will be a most coveted award, I am sure), and ‘Best Body Product’ has been replaced with ‘Candy Crush of the Year’ to reflect my Candy Crush posts that celebrate my fragrant obsessions throughout the year. Oh and there’s now a ‘House of the Year’ award which goes to my favourite perfume house of the year. That about covers it, so shall we get started then? Yes, let’s! A drumroll please…
We often talk about ‘notes’ or materials in fragrances and how they come together to create a multi-faceted composition. But these materials are incredibly nuanced themselves and each one brings not one, not two, but a multitude of different things to a fragrance, meaning that there is always a lot to learn when one goes back to the source materials. I always think that the best way to understand a perfume material is to break it down into facets and that’s exactly what these olfactory deconstruction pieces are for – to dissect each material into little parts so we can really understand what makes it tick, and what makes it smell so good.
Perfume is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Each fragrance is made up of specifically shaped pieces that lock together. Perfumers match up the pieces, locking them together facet-to-facet, tessellating each nuance to either enhance or contrast them, or in some cases, to create something entirely new. The great thing is that, unlike jigsaw puzzles, where there is one way of piecing things together, perfumery is open-ended and the perfumer can tie things together in whichever way they see fit. This means that the picture at the end can be whatever they dream up. There are endless possibilities and to me, that’s pretty damn exciting.
It’s taken about two years of intense rose-sniffing but I have become wholly and completely obsessed with rose perfumes. I’d even go as far saying that rose is my favourite note. In fact, I’m going to say exactly that: rose is my favourite note in perfumery. I simply cannot get enough and whilst I’ve already written a guide to rose perfumes and even battled them on Fume Chat, I feel as I haven’t quite got my adoration for the note out of my system yet. So with that in mind, here’s a bit of a different approach to an article that allows me to wax lyrical about roses once more.
Roses are one of the most versatile ‘notes’ in perfumery. I say ‘note’ but there really is a vast array of rose materials used in perfumery, some to give a rosy impression and others to add complexity to other compositions. I want to celebrate this versatility of rose but instead of just compiling a guide to roses I’ve decided to showcase the many gradients of rose by creating a day of roses. The idea is very simple: these are roses for morning, noon and night and if you want, you could simply pick one for the time you need it, or if you’re adventurous you could transition through all nine during the day. Whatever you choose, I hope you’ll agree that there really is a rose for every minute, moment and mood.