Much like fashion, the trends of perfumery are cicular and what is in favour now, is likely to be garbage tomorrow. This is the nature of trends – we overdose on the good stuff for a period of time until we get sick of it and something else comes along, and perfume is no different. Just look at the 1980s, when syrupy atom bomb florals existed to; a) be so distinct that one knew what they were smelling a mile away; and b) to terrify the masses. Of course, those scents are as on trend today as leg warmers and zoot suits are, which is to say that they’re not. Heck, one can even look at the ’90s, with its sterile repentance of calone and white musk and see how those things too, are no longer ‘in’. It all comes in to fashion, goes out and then comes back in again in a never ending cycle.
Of course, some trends stick about and the lucky ones take their place in the hall of fame as an entirely brand new genre that constantly develops without falling out of favour. Oud is one such trend – a style that has stuck around for so long now, and in so many guises, that it’s arguably the newest olfactory family. A perfumery trend that has not stood the test of time however, is green. Green was massive in the ’70s and ’80s but fell quickly out of favour. Why? Well, these perfumes have a tendency to be harsh and bossy, rubbing people up the wrong way with sharp edges. Also, as lovely as plants and grasses are, who really wants to smell like them? Exactly. But, as we’ve established, all trends make a comeback and right now we’re seeing a verdant renaissance of green scents both in mainstream and niche perfumery: the new green.
Personally, green has always been the toughest of fragrance families to get on with. There’s just something so standoffish about green scents – something so impersonal and too redolent of nature that puts me off. I admire abstraction in my scents and too often, green fragrances are either too rooted in nature or are simply too harsh. But I’m an evolved perfume sniffer, I can appreciate beauty even in those places where I feel as if I’m likely not to find it. So I’ve put together a list of six green fragrances that actually tickle my fancy. These scents also represent the modern revival of green, which all kicked off with Maison Martin Margiela’s Untitled in 2010. So, Dear Reader, you won’t find your CHANEL Nº19 here nor your Vent Vert, but you will discover six modern green fragrances that will completely destroy that old idiom that says it’s not that easy being green. In fact, for these six scents, to be such a thing is really rather marvellous.
Here we are, in the last few weeks of 2016 – I cannot believe that this year has gone so quickly! This will be my last post before I take my Christmas break (don’t worry, I’ll be back soon enough with The Candies 2016 – my best-of-the-best round-up of the year), during which I will gorge on just about anything edible I can get my hands on. But before the festivities kick off, I wanted to share my final review of 2016 with you and I’ve deliberately left this fragrance to last for the very simple reason that it’s really bloody good, which makes it the perfect perfume to end a year of fragrant discover on. So let’s do exactly that.
Fathom V is the latest scent from Beaufort London, a daring niche brand created by musician and writer Leo Crabtree who offers a collection of fragrances inspired by the sea. I’ve not written about Beaufort London yet because I’ve found their fragrances quite challenging, if I’m being entirely honest. There’s a darkness to this collection, yes, but also an incredibly unique take on familiar themes that really does push the limits as to what is acceptable and palatable in modern perfumery. But when a brand names their first collection of fragrances ‘Come Hell or High Water’ one knows that they mean business and Beaufort London certainly takes the art of perfumery seriously. These scents aren’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, in fact they can be downright difficult, but that’s exactly what makes them thoroughly intriguing sniffs.
This newest addition to Come Hell or High Water is inspired by the imagery of “violent weather, shipwrecks and magical islands” within Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, taking its name from the nautical measure that represents six feet of depth, essentially referring to a body of water that is five fathoms deep. The fragrance is an olfactory clash between the green and the aquatic, creating something that is as contrasting, ever-changing and as powerful as the ocean. Fathom V is not your typical green fragrance nor is it your typical aquatic, in fact there is nothing ‘typical’ about this scent at all – it is wholly and entirely unexpected at every level, depth and fathom.
Green fragrances are my least favourite, I’m just going to come right out and say it. They so often feel harsh and demanding, not to mention the fact that many of the greats now feel very dated, relying on aldehydes and galbanum (notes du jour of the ’80s) to create a style that is distinct, yes, but definitely out of line with current trends. So yes, green fragrances, bar a few notable exceptions (see Amazingreen & Panorama) are not for me and judging by their absence from the department store shelves, I’m not the only one to feel this way.
But green is making a comeback at the hands of one of perfumery’s titans. That’s right, TOM FORD is bringing back ‘green’. The leading man of fashion and fragrance is reviving one of perfumery’s most out of favour genres – one that permeated the designer arena throughout the ’70s and ’80s, but now seems decidedly absent. But of course, Mr Ford’s idea of green is inspired by the classics, but does not replicate them. Instead, with Les Extraits Vert, the newly-launched sub-section of green fragrances within his Private Blend Collection, Ford adds his contemporary twist, making this tired genre something exciting and new.
Les Extraits Vert consists of four fragrances; Vert Boheme, Vert d’Encens, Vert de Fleur and Vert des Bois, each of which subverts the green genre rather successfully. Vert des Bois, the subject of this review feels like the most ‘TOM FORD’ of the bunch, offering up smoke, leather and greenery in an aesthetic that is masculine and classy. The brand uses words such as ‘expressive’ and ‘provocative’ to describe Vert des Bois and to an extent, I can see why. Vert des Bois is provocative because it challenges one’s notions of what a green fragrance can be and it certainly makes for a verdant experience unlike any other.
As I walked up the Crawford Street in Marylebone, London, towards the new Perfumer H store, I must admit that I had a fair few butterflies in my stomach. I’m a nervous person at the best of times, but I was especially so on this occasion because I was on my way to meet Lyn Harris, the nose that puts the ‘Perfumer’ and the ‘H’ into Perfumer H. Harris’ CV precedes her, having built the hugely successful fragrance house, Miller Harris, from scratch in her early twenties, to the global lifestyle brand that it is today, Harris has a knack for making unfussy perfumes with a spirit of clarity. This spirit is not lost in Perfumer H however, it is presented in an entirely different way.
Stepping across the threshold of Perfumer H, I needn’t have been worried or been nervous at all, as the whole experience was an entirely relaxed affair, from the setup of the shop to the rather insightful chat I had with Harris herself over a cup of hot bergamot tea. As I enter the store, I’m greeted by a dog snoozing calmly on the chair. His name is Pop and he’s a handsome border terrier who, quite rightly, appears rather at home amongst the inviting, yet surprisingly minimal decor of the store. The presence of Pop cements the fact that Perfumer H is not a brand in the typical sense, with a pre-defined personality or ethos. Instead, Perfumer H is an extension of Lyn Harris, and its personality is Lyn as she is today, and it says what she wants to say, all through the medium of olfaction.
If you’re ever feeling bored with the state of modern perfumery or exhausted by the endless onslaught of (often underwhelming) launches, I recommend that you take a few minutes out to explore the fascinating fragrant offerings from Olfactive Studio. This French-based niche house creates scents inspired by photography, specifically the images and techniques associated with the prevalent medium, and their range covers a vast number of olfactory styles, from smoky florals to strange spice creations. In short, Olfactive Studio is an exciting brand with an entirely unique viewpoint.
The studio have just launched their seventh fragrance – the Clement Gavarry-penned ‘Panorama’. Inspired by the Miguel Sandinha photograph of the legendary Sheats Goldstein house in Los Angeles, California (see below), Panorama is a green fragrance that boasts an unconventional note of wasabi. In keeping with the photograph from which it takes inspiration, Panorama contrasts urban and modern landscapes with verdant vegetation to create a fragrance that is large and expansive, with a plethora of nuances that are all intensely green. Get ready to be fascinated, folks, because this scent is one heck of a green wonder.
It seems that the world’s greatest, and possibly only perfume curator is spoiling us. Last year, after four years of long, painful silence, Frédéric Malle launched the extraordinary Dries van Noten – a perfume that genuinely is like no other, and this summer he is generously treating the world to yet another, brand new fragrance. It seem that, much like buses, Monsieur Malle’s perfumes come in multiples and after a lengthy wait. But who are we to complain?
The new edition to the extensive and wonderful Editions de Parfums library is entitled ‘Eau de Magnolia‘ and is penned by venerable perfumer Carlos Benaïm, the man behind scents such as Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb and Dior’s Pure Poison. The fragrance is billed as both an entirely new take on the classic ‘Eau de Cologne’ as well as a beautiful presentation of the magnolia flower, and one should see it as a perfume that sits somewhere smack bang in the middle of these two things.
“This time the conversation between Frédéric Malle and Carlos Benaïm was on the headspace analysis of the magnolia and the fact that the flower is closer to an Eau de Cologne than to a classic flower. Carlos then suggested to magnify the hesperidic equilibrium of the Magnolia to enhance the Eau effect and to add a woody vibration to give it depth and sensuality. The result is a fresh chypre, an extraordinarily transparent and very natural, smelling note, animated by a somber base (vetiver, patchouli) that gives it a touch of mystery. A timeless summer perfume.”
Magnolia blooms sing with a complex profile of odours that range from the zesty smell of lemons to the waxy and almost cheesy scent of gardenia flowers. It’s a truly versatile bouquet that can radiate with freshness or revel in plush creaminess, depending entirely on how it it used. Frédéric Malle and Carlos Benaïm’s take on magnolia errs on the fresher side of things, creating a perfume that veers from eau de cologne to floral chypre in an incredibly enjoyable manner.
There should be a club for those that consider themselves as ‘Amouage Addicts’. We could all sit around discussing our adoration for the Omani house, pouring over our favourites and consoling each other over the fact that we’ll never be able to own them all. One matter that definitely would not be up for discussion however, is the idea of giving the house up any time soon. It’s simply not on the table.
We are truly helpless really, what with the annual masculine and feminine pairings. Not to mention special editions such as Beloved and the highly artistic and fascinating Library Collection. The truth is that we are mere lemmings for Amouage and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This year’s addition to the Library Collection is Opus VII. Created by perfumers Pierre Negrin and Alberto Morillas it “arouses the juxtaposition of harmon with the intensity of reasoning between conflicting ideas and beliefs” . Much like the chaos of the Interlude duo from last year, Opus VII appears to take a slightly more abstract approach with its dark black flacon serving as a small hint for the wild ride that’s unleashed upon the very first spritz.