The clocks went back on Sunday meaning that the days are now getting shorter and the harshness of winter darkness is upon us. Some may view this as a bad thing, after all as the days get colder and darker the mood of the population tends to follow suit, but there is one group of people who love the cold, and that is the fumenerds.
That’s right, as a general rule of thumb (please say if you disagree) fumelovers adore the winter because it means that one can dip into ones perfume wardrobe and pick out the heavy orientals, warm lactonic florals, and best of all, the cosy sweet foody fumes. When it comes to this genre of tasty scents the absolute best come from a little Parisian boutique located at No. 68 Champs Elysees: a patisserie disguised as a perfumery.
I don’t know exactly what it is about some of Guerlain’s offerings that makes them so delicious, perhaps it is the fact they aren’t quite gourmand enough to be edible that gives them the edge. They have that certainly je ne sais qoui that means they simply work and it is a simple truth that nobody quite manages to do confectionary quite like Guerlain.
This review focuses on one of my absolute favourite Guerlain confections and perhaps my one of my favourites from the house in general (but you’ll understand if I do not commit myself to that statement); Iris Ganache – a fragrance that I have silently stalked in Selfridge’s and Harrod’s many times, falling in love a little bit more each and every time, until I had to face the facts and bite the bullet on my very own bottle.
Smell Bent is the slightly warped brainchild of LA based perfume-lover (and very handsome perfumer) Brent Leonesio. Offering fragrances that “delight your nose and your funny bone” Smell Bent lets you into a cartoon world of chaos, naughty frolics and damn good smells, all for a more-than-reasonable price. As they put it on the Smell Bent Website:
“We think that perfume should be fun and shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. We know life can be hard, but it shouldn’t have to smell bad.”
I reckon that I have perused the Smell Bent website, chuckling away at the names, cartoons and descriptions of each scent, about a million times, yet it was only recently that I decided to put in a sample order. Perhaps there was a bit too much choice for my little brain to handle and if I’m being honest I think that might be the case, I wanted to order just about everything but I couldn’t (apparently we’re supposed to be buying a house or something, I don’t know, ask Nigel) and that made me sad.
It was actually Freddie of Smellythoughts fame that convinced me to bite the bullet and I’m ever so glad he did because the six Smell Bents I ordered, each of which is like a fun little ditty, have surpassed my expectations considerably. So without further ado I present to you Part 1 of my Smell Bent Speedy Sniffs (with Part 2 to follow next week), I hope that you enjoy reading about these characters as much as I did smelling them. They may be low in price but they certainly aren’t short on quality or fun!
Guerlain’s ode to the Little Black Dress, ‘La Petite Robe Noire’, has a confusing history. First it was released as a pricey boutique exclusive, then there was the sequel ‘La Petite Robe Noire 2’ (and yes it was about as good as you would expect a sequel to be), the first of five planned additions to Guerlain’s wardrobe. Following all of that Guerlain has now decided to relaunch a new version of La Petite Robe Noire as part of its main collection, and in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser has gone in and tweaked things a little bit.
Now, I don’t mean to be smug (OK maybe just a little) but I have always said that La Petite Robe Noire was wasted as a boutique exclusive, strongly believing that it would be a massive hit if it were unleashed into the world of mainstream perfumery, and from the response it’s getting on the counters I think it may just be as popular as I expected.
Taking inspiration from the most classic and versatile pieces of clothing – the little black dress, La Petite Robe Noire is the perhaps the most fun, free-spirited of Guerlain’s many offerings. It comes billed as “the epitome of couture for the skin”  and if you’re wondering what “couture” smells like, the answer is, in true Guerlain style, a big fruity floral gourmand.
Last week’s poll focused on the age old debate of spraying vs dabbing. Unsurprisingly, due to the fact that is the most commonly available application method, spraying won the battle with a total of 73.5% of the vote. What I found particularly interesting about the results was the fact that 20% answered that they didn’t care how the perfume was applied and a number of comments stated that it actually depended on the perfume as to whether they sprayed or dabbed, with dabbing being the preferred method of application for pure parfum/extrait and spraying for Eau de Parfum or Eau de Toilette.
This week’s poll moves on to a completely different subject, that of perfume genres. Tastes in perfume tend to be fairly eclectic and most fumeheads own a number of bottles from a variety of fragrance families, but most will also have a favourite, and I want to know what yours is. Register your vote and let me know your thoughts in the comments box below!
“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.” 
Celebrity fragrances, or ‘celebuscents’ as they are so often called, are the scorn of many a perfumista. The majority are cheap, thoughtless compositions with the sole intent of making a quick buck for a celebrity desperate to cash in on the latest trend. As you can imagine, most of the time the celebrity has very little input in the development of their fragrance, preferring simply to be ‘the face’ rather than ‘the brains’.
There are of course exceptions, and some celebrities do insist on being more involved by playing the role of creative director. Celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and J Lo are widely reported to have been directly involved with the creation of their early fragrances and this involvement shows in the final product. But these celebrities are few and far between.
One brand in particular has taken the idea of the celebuscent to a new level by choosing to partner with unusual celebrities who take on the role of muse and work with the perfumer to create their fragrance. This brand is Etat Libre d’Orange, those funny French olfactory freedom fighters whose compositions feel like a breath of fresh air within the industry.
For their celebuscents Etat Libre d’Orange chose two unexpected, subversive celebrities; Oscar Winning British Actress & Androgynous Style Icon Tilda Swinton and Pedro Almodóvar’s Picasso-esque Muse Rossy de Palma. Two strong, unique women for a strong and unique brand.
What a busy boy Pierre Guillame is. Not only is he the man and the exceptionally talented nose behind the über exciting brand Parfumerie Générale, he is also responsible for brands such as Phaedon and Hutième Art. He creates for all three brands whilst managing to look effortlessly handsome. It makes you hate him just a little bit, doesn’t it?
Ok, I’m just being silly, I don’t really hate Pierre Guillaume, in fact it’s quite the opposite, I have great respect for him and his fragrant vision. He has managed to craft himself a distinct style and has very much found his own little niche in the market. With Parfumerie Générale and Huitième Art, Guillaume tinkers with the most ancient and noble of ingredients, interpreting each one in new and surprising ways.
Huitième Art is one Pierre Guillaume’s many projects and is a collection of 9 perfumes “showcasing an all-new ‘plant capture’, an original plant-inspired accord or natural organic ingredient” and with “an emphasis on originality and sophistication”. Each perfume is housed in one of the most fascinating flacons I have ever come across, a part-modern, part-natural ceramic cyclops intended to represent the eye looking to the future, which just so happens to be the exact same direction that M. Guillaume’s nose is pointed.