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The Luxury Collection is where rebellious niche house Juliette Has a Gun stretches its olfactory legs. Their other offerings sit comfortably between mainstream and niche – they’re made with good quality materials and bring unique twists to very accessible, affable fragrances. The Luxury Collection however, is a bit more serious and has a touch more of an abstract feel to it, bringing a strong sense of niche-ness. It’s where Juliette Has a Gun ditches the cool air and the fun names in exchange for some serious perfumery.

Liquid Illusion (good name – after all, perfume is just a liquid illusion) is the latest addition to the Luxury Collection. It takes its inspiration from heliotropin – a fragrant material that is also found in the drug ecstasy. The idea here, is to present a stimulating fragrance that pairs heliotropin with the luxurious note of iris – something as intense and electrifying as the inky-blue bottle it comes in. The result is something quite intriguing indeed.

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Speed Sniffs are a way to bring you ‘to-the-point’ fragrance reviews that are quick and easy to digest. They are perfume reviews without the faff.

Acqua di Parma always strikes me as a really stylish brand. Their fragrances have mass appeal but also a finesse that puts them above much of what the mainstream has to offer. Their Colonia is a perfumery icon and it has seen many interpretations over its 100 year life span, most notably in the Colonia Ingredients Collection which sees the classic cologne reimagined with new signature ingredients from the likes of leather to oud and amber. With this collection, Acqua di Parma remixes the effortless refinement of Colonia and presents it in

Created exclusively for luxury retailer Harrods, the latest scent in the Ingredients Collection is COLONIA VANIGLIA, an ode to the exotic spice of Madagascan vanilla. Created by Perfumer François Demachy, COLONIA VANIGLIA is an exotic oriental that is evocative of tropical islands. Acqua di Parma refer to it as having an “olfactory roundness” which just hints at how smooth this fragrance is. Anyways, that’s enough of me waffling on, you want to know what it smells like.  OK, here goes…

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Oh for the Love of Oud

One could quite easily look at Amouroud, a new niche brand that celebrates oud, perfumery’s note du jour, and feel a little bit skeptical. One might even be inspired to exclaim “oh for the love of oud” in a loud, exasperated tone. But that would be a bit OTT, admittedly. Just ask yourself this question, how many niche houuses out there are offering exclusive oud fragrances, not to mention exclusive oud fragrances in black and gold bottles? Well the answer is many, but Amouroud isn’t just another cynical brand trying to make a quick buck, they are in fact, passionate about perfume.

Amouroud comes from The Perfumer’s Workshop, who have been creating perfume since the 1970s and are most famous for their Tea Rose fragrance. They launch this month in Harrods with an initial collection of six fragrances, each of which showcases or contains oud. Speaking of oud, my good friends Nick and Pia made a valid point in a recent episode of their Vlog Love to Smell (subscribe, goddamit), when they said that oud is now its very own olfactive family, in the way that orientals and chypres are, rather than just an ongoing trend. Anyway, I digress. Amouroud are not the brand that one may think they are and what they have done is really quite intriguing.

I’ll do a bit of a topsy-turvy review here and provide my overall verdict of the collection before I do a scent-by-scent rundown. Amouroud is a very nicely pieced together brand. One can see that years of experience have been poured into each and every single detail. The bottles are heavy and luxurious, the box has a metal plaque appliquéd onto it and the fragrances themselves are well thought out, and exciting. But the best thing about Amouroud is the price. Where other brands think that £300+ is acceptable for any old scent in a blingy bottle, this one is content with marketing 100ml of interesting and enjoyable Eau de Parfum for £145. That’s practically free in this post-niche day and age! One other nice touch is the fact that the brand will give you a generous spray sample of your second favourite scent in the collection, alongside your purchase. How nice is that?

Lip-Smacking Ouds
Lip-Smacking Ouds

During this review I am going to attempt not to; a) mention; or b) moan about, the perfume industry’s boring obsession with oud. Oh, well that didn’t last very long, did it? In all seriousness, you don’t need to hear me bang on about oud and why we’re all fed up with it, because frankly, I’m fed up with saying it. So onwards and upwards. Oud is popular and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, despite our collective ennui regarding the subject. Which leads me nicely onto two brand new oud fragrances from luxury brand Robert Piguet…

The Piguet brand has exploded considerably over the last three years and their small capsule collection of a handful, or so of scents has increased significantly with 19 new fragrances created since 2012 (that’s quite the growth, people). In truth, they’ve been a bit of a mixed bag, and whilst I thought that scents such as Petit Fracas were great fun (and really worth sniffing), many haven’t lived up to the greatness of the brand’s classics such as Fracas, Bandit and Visa. Which, let’s face it, must be quite difficult, i mean, not every fragrance are ever going to be as great as Fracas!

This summer, Piguet have launched Oud Divin and Oud Délice, two follow-ups to their Oud, which was launched in 2012, and was a pretty big and funky take on the note. These two ouds take the signature of the original and turn it into something a little bit more palatable. They flirt with the gourmand and present the signature Oud Piguet, the “proprietary blend of resins and woods” that was the core of 2012’s stinky (in a good way) Oud, in two strikingly different ways – one is robust, shocking and intriguing, whilst the other pleases with softness and familiarity.

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Sculptural Olfaction – Noir Premier by Lalique

Lalique is a name that is inextricably linked with quality, artistry and beauty. Their glassware is unrivalled, pairing sculptures from nature with more abstract visions to create a brand that is contemporary yet traditional. I’ve always seen their perfumes as hidden gems. In fact, the house of Lalique is probably better known for the flacons they have created for other fragrance companies, rather than their own perfumes. But Lalique’s fragrance collection is executed with a finesse and a paired-back simplicity that is refreshing in the fog-horn world of perfumery, where everyone is trying to shout each other down.  Fragrances like Amethyst Éclat and Hommage à l’homme Voyageur, both flankers to other Lalique pillar fragrances, demonstrate familiar themes in unfamiliar guises, opting for long-lasting quality rather than ephemeral showmanship.

This year, the house of Lalique is taking their knack for artistry and spinning it into a brand new collection of six exclusive fragrances. Of course, anybody who’s anybody is doing an ‘exclusive collection’ of sorts nowadays, and one cannot blame Lalique for joining the fray (there’s a bundle of money in it). But how do their offerings compare with the likes of Guerlain, Chanel and Dior et al, who have walked this path so successfully before them?  Well, the answer to that question is complex and entirely depends on one’s tastes, and also one’s patience for high-end luxury fragrances, what I will say however, is that Lalique have created these six fragrances with the exact same attention to detail, and precision that they have famously applied to just about everything their hands, or noses have touched, and for that, they should be commended.

The collection is entitled ‘Noir Premier’ and consists of six fragrances (one of which is exclusive to London department store, Harrods) that celebrate Lalique’s “history and milestones” in fragrant form. The names and inspirations of each fragrance come from the brand’s rich heritage and history, honouring the creators, styles and individual pieces that have made Lalique a world renowned name in the fields of glass and crystal. Each fragrance is housed within an exceptionally crafted bottle that harks back to the “very first black perfume bottle designed by René Lalique in 1911: the Quatre Aigles bottle” and forms the Roman numeral “I”. For the brand, Noir Premier is a personal collection steeped in history and for that reason, each of the six fragrances within this series, serves as a poignant landmark on the rich timeline of the house of Lalique.

Yep, That's Me, Rocking a #SantaSelfie
Yep, That’s Me, Rocking a #SantaSelfie

In the hit song ‘Who Do You Think you Are?’, the wise prophet, Gerri Halliwell, once said “giving is good, as long as you’re getting”, and whilst this may not be entirely true, as it is always lovely to give gifts too (Christmas is all about giving, apparently), it would be a lie to say that receiving presents isn’t pretty awesome. In fact, I’m happy to admit that I’m a bit of a monster at Christmas and have been known to supply lists to my family, of things I would, much to their dismay, even though I have eased off over the last few years, in a vain attempt to be less of a brat. But still, one must think of themselves every now and then and it doesn’t hurt to have a strong idea of what it is that you want in life.

Anyway, I digress. Everyone is doing gift guides at the moment and I find them difficult because there is just so much out there to choose, and so many people to choose for, that putting together a comprehensive selection of what to buy for whom, is pretty much mind boggling for me. So, in lieu of an actual gift guide, and seeing as my favourite subject is myself (I kid, of course, kinda…), I present to you my personal wish list of fragrant treats for Christmas. Perhaps this will serve as inspiration for gifts you’re buying, or maybe it’ll just be an insight into just how much of a demanding little sod I am. Either way, I hope you enjoy my joyful gathering of scented gifts.

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The Deliciousness of Rose

Elie Saab burst onto the fragrance scene in a blaze of golden glory. His debut perfume ‘Le Parfum‘ was penned by none other than industry veteran, Francis Kurkdjian and it presented a radiant woody floral that utilised a solar orange blossom note to capture the unending beauty of Saab’s couture. This perfume kick-started a genre of radiant, glowing fragrances such as Carven’s Le Parfum (also by Kurkdjian) that now permeate the department store shelves, and it has deservedly found quite a following and spawned a number of flankers.

This year, Elie Saab and Francis Kurkdjian have teamed up once again to do something new – specifically to release a more exclusive collection of unisex fragrances entitled ‘La Collection des Essences’. Consisting of four perfumes, Essence Nº1: Rose, Essence Nº2: Gardenia, Essence Nº3: Ambre and Essence Nº4: Oud, the collection has been created to showcase “perfumed expressions of haute couture”, and unlike many exclusive collections (most of which are yawn-worthy and blatant money spinners), this one does exactly what it sets out to do with four fragrances that certainly capture the spirit of ‘Eau de Couture’.

“La Collection des Essences expresses a supreme elegance, a concise refinement that melds light and colour, depth and subtlety, volume and transparency. Four bold and exclusive statements with precise, dense and dazzling formulas.”

– Elie Saab

I have managed to try the whole collection and I must say that I am impressed, as I expected to be – I am, after all, a bit of Kurkdjian fan-boy. The Gardenia is a sharp, green and fuzzy take on the flower that sits somewhere between photorealism and abstraction, whereas the Ambre is a spicy, cosy and piquant amber, in a similar vein to Byredo’s 1996, and the Oud avoids the typical rose/super-spicy cliches as a woody and animalic oud that wouldn’t feel entirely out of place within Kurkdjian’s own collection. It is the Rose however, that has me hooked with its beautiful gourmand tones, that really are quite striking, despite their simplicity.