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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.

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The Candies 2015: The Very Best and The Very Worst Perfumes of the Year
The Candies 2015: The Very Best and The Very Worst Perfumes of the Year

How is it the end of 2015 already? Seriously, I feel like things were only getting started! Anyway, seeing as it is very nearly the end of the year it can only mean one thing: The Candies! That’s right, it’s now time to take a look back at 2015 to identify the good, the bad and the downright ugly perfumes of the year. As always, it has been an active year for the industry and we’ve seen some great stuff. We’ve also seen some pretty dreadful stuff as well. It will make for exciting reading, I’m sure,

This year, I’ve done a bit of tinkering around with the awards we have on offer. Most have stayed the same however, we have said goodbye to the Best Celebuscent Award because really, celebrity fragrances appear to be on the out and I honestly don’t think I’ve even reviewed one this year. We’ve also said goodbye to the Best Advertising Campaign Award which has now been replaced with the Best Top-Down Design Award, an accolade that celebrates those perfumes that get the juice, bottle and advertising spot on. Finally, I’ve also added a new award this year for Best New House, which aims to highlight the best new fragrance brand launched within the year. Other than that all is the same.

So without further ado, ladies and gentleman of the perfume loving community, please take your seats, adjust your undergarments and fix your weaves as we are about to commence The Candies 2015. We require silence within the auditorium, selfies are banned and everyone must be suitably perfumed. Them’s the rules. There will be snark, there will be gushing sentimentality and there will be more hyperbole than you can shake a stick at, so gird your loins, dear readers, and get ready for the alternative perfume awards!

Also, please be sure to head on over to Persolaise’s blog to check out his round-up of perfume in 2015.

Raw. Elemental. Encre Noire À L'Extrême.
Raw. Elemental. Encre Noire À L’Extrême.

I like vetiver but I don’t own many vetiver fragrances.  A brief sweep of my collection highlights the truth that I only own four vetiver-centric scents; Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford in Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette concentrations, Carven’s reissued Vetiver and a bottle of Guerlain’s Vetiver (a must for any card carrying perfume nut).  In fact, that’s not the truth at all because all four of these technically belong to my husband who, for the record, does enjoy a good vetiver.  So why the vetiver snubbing at Candy Perfume Towers?  In all honesty, I do not know.  Perhaps I’m too busy focusing on my florals and macerating over my Muglers to really allowed vetiver to show me its veritas. Who knows?!

There is a new vetiver in town though, that may just sway my opinion.  Well, I say new, but once again I am being creative with the truth.  This vetiver is a flanker to a cult vetiver and I have to admit that it’s rather blinking good.  Most of you will be familiar with Lalique’s famous Encre Noire (Nathalie Lorson; 2006), a dark and brooding vetiver that is often regarded as one of the very best the genre has to offer.  Well now, Encre Noire has spawned a child – an intense and more raw version of itself that has one mission, and one mission only: to smell damn good.

The scent is called Encre Noire À L’Extrême and it is pretty much what you would expect from a fragrance boasting that sort of name: a richer, more intense and more extreme version of the original. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Encre Noire, perfumer Nathalie Lorson has reinterpreted the iconic vetiver fragrance, or as Lalique put it Lorson pens “a new chapter in the saga”. Pushing the signature of the original “to its limits”Encre Noire À L’Extrême is a fragrance that “plays on contrasts to express every facet of masculinity through powerful, seductive accords.” I’d say that it does a pretty good job of it too!

Living the Lalique Life
Living the Lalique Life

Do you ever get the impression that you’re going to love a perfume before you’ve even tried it? It’s an odd feeling. You read all of the reviews online, study the marketing bumf and ogle pictures of the bottle, whilst all the time feeding your inner perfume demon who is   quietly whispering how “they wants it, they needs it”. Only when one actually gets their hands on the precious is the demon satisfied. Lalique’s latest feminine fragrance, ‘Living Lalique‘ was one such case of demonic perfume lust. All it took was one scan of the press release and I was hooked – I knew I needed it in my life.

Living Lalique, like all-things Lalique, looks to the past for its inspirations (see the Noir Premier Collection for further evidence). The fragrance takes cues from the flight of the swallow, Lalique’s house emblem, whilst the bottle is inspired by the ‘Carnette Fleur’, a bottle designed by founder, René Lalique in 1911, not to mention the fact that the ad campaign focuses on an art deco window inspired by the brands aesthetics. It’s definitely a Lalique affair and one has to feel positive about the brand’s love and respect for their heritage.

The fragrance itself is penned by Richard Ibanez of Robertet (Andrea Maack Coal & Divine L’Inspiratrice) and is described as being a “soaring fragrance” that “follows the Lalique woman from metropolis to metropolis and from emotion to emotion”. To evoke the spirit of the Lalique lifestyle, the brand and Ibanez have chosen to focus on perfumery’s richest and most divine ingredient – orris butter (iris). The result is a sumptuous, pillowy fragrance that, through subtlety and a paired-back warmth, evokes beauty with every fibre of its orris-soaked being.

“A moment of emotion. A flight of swallows. A window opening into a world of timeless luxury. The quintessence of the Lalique lifestyle is expressed in a new perfume, Living Lalique. A bold fragrance, reflecting the urban, contemporary, active life of the Lalique woman. A dream-like fragrance, sculpted from materials as luminous as crystal. A soaring fragrance, inspired by the elegant swallow, Lalique has chosen as its emblem.”

– Lalique

The Candies 2014
The Candies 2014: The Very Best and The Very Worst Perfumes of the Year

Wow, what a whirlwind of a year 2014 was. The perfume industry has, as always, been nothing short of prolific in its output, with new brands popping up all over the place and the same big names releasing perfume upon perfume, and flanker upon flanker. It has, once again been a very busy year, and the hive of activity within the industry has meant that a great number of wonderful new olfactory treats have been unleashed on the noses of perfume lovers and consumers.

For me, this year has been one of great personal significance. In March I won my first Jasmine Award for my Guide to Violet, and shortly after in May, my best buddy and I tied the knot, only a few days before I presented an award at the Fragrance Foundation Awards. Then in August I was promoted at work, and in September my new husband and I headed off to Tokyo for the honeymoon of a lifetime. In short, it has been a fantastic year and one that will always remain truly in my heart as one of the very best.

To celebrate 2014 from a fragrant perspective, I present to you ‘The Candies 2014’. Those of you who have followed The Candies before will know that they are my annual perfume awards, celebrating the very best, and the very worst perfumes of the year (out of the 147 scents I have reviewed in 2014). Under the jump you will find the winners, losers and honourable mentions filed under neat little categories. So please, don your tux or ball down, break open the Bolly and take your seats for The Candies 2014.

[Also, please don’t forget to head on over to my dear perfume pals, Persolaise and Perfume Shrine, who are both joining me in sharing their ‘best of’ lists today.]

Limited Edition - L'Amour Lalique Crystal Flacon
Limited Edition – L’Amour Lalique Crystal Flacon

In time for Valentine’s Day 2015, venerable glassware house Lalique will launch an exclusive collector’s edition of their popular L’Amour Lalique fragrance (composed by Nathalie Lorson) in Extrait de Parfum. This limited edition is housed within a beautiful Lalique crystal flacon, inspired by the stained glass windows designed by René Lalique for Japanese emperor, Asaka Yasuhiko. The four windows were created especially for the drawing room in the emperor’s Tokyo palace, and were displayed at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in 1932.

“A radiant, emotional celebration of femininity, L’Amour is now showcased in the most sumptuous gift a perfume can be offered : a softly curved crystal bottle whose precious stopper is also inspired by René Lalique’s 1932 masterwork for the Japanese Prince Asaka Yasuhiko. Its feathers form the rose window motif decorating the top of the stopper, and its rim is festooned with flower garlands, delicately trimmed with hand-painted gold. The fragrance poured into this exceptional bottle reinvents L’Amour as an Extrait de Parfum. A rarer, more intense, more passionate, but also more sensual interpretation.”

– Lalique

Sculptural Olfaction
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.