As far as mainstream lines go, Prada is one of the very best. Everything about the many fragrances in their collection, which stretches from the likes of Candy, Les Infusions de Prada, L’Homme Prada and La Femme Prada, and Luna Rossa, feels finely curated and created in their inimitable house-style. Where many brands would take a cynical approach to masculine perfumery, Prada seeks to incorporate quality and a distinct signature to create fragrances that stand out from the crowd, but not so much that they don’t appeal to the average consumer. The result is something like Luna Rossa, which is a minty fresh blend of lavender, musk and spices inspired by the brand’s professional sailing boat. It’s an accessible fragrance made with a high degree of excellency.
With their latest launch in the Luna Rossa franchise, Prada seem to be innovating. For Luna Rossa Carbon they are exploring the clash of natural materials and synthetics to represent the olfactory idea of carbon. They call it “a set of intriguing, engineered-contradictions” and describe it as an “iconoclastic fougère”. Well, them some pretty big words you got there, Prada – let’s hope that this fragrance lives up to the hype. What I will say, before we get to the sniff test, is that it’s always refreshing for a mainstream brand to talk about the use of synthetics so openly. In an age where ‘natural’ is valued more and more, it’s encouraging to know that the technology and innovation of the industry can be promoted in such an open manner. Anyway, let’s sniff.
Here we are then, at the very end of 2016. It feels, especially after the losses of George Michael, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, to name but a few, within the last week, a very bittersweet year. I say bittersweet because it’s not just the loss of the huge number of great talents this year, the likes of Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood… (the list is endless), but also because the world seems to be a much harsher place than it did one year ago. Whatever your politics, I think we can all agree that 2017 is the year that we all need to work together to make our world a better place.
From a fragrant perspective, 2016 has actually been a pheomenal year. I’d be lying to you if I said that it was easy for me to pick out my very favourite scents of the year because I really did like a lot this year, and it feels like there certainly was a huge amount of good stuff, whether that be unique and interesting new things, or familiar styles that were executed very well. But you will be pleased to know that I was able to narrow down my choices and pick out the winners of The Candies 2016. I do need a stiff drink after all that work though…
If this is your first time attending The Candies, I shall explain how things work. Firstly, you may attend in your pyjamas and you do not need to worry about drinking too much and making a fool of yourself, in fact, such actions are encouraged. We have a number of awards to give out, each of which is split out by Mainstream and Niche, and then by gender. There are also awards for Best Top Down Design and even a Sour Candy Award, which names and shames the worst perfume of the year. This year we also have the addition of the Best Scented Product Award which celebrates the best smelly product for your body or home. It’s a full programme, so let’s get started!
John Varvatos has followed a singular approach to his perfume line. All of the fragrances are housed within a signature bottle, available in many shapes and colours, and with numerous embellishments, and every single one of his scents has been composed by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux. This makes for a collection that feels coherent, despite visiting many olfactory styles along the way, and it proves that in perfumery, true partnership is the key to creating scented magic.
The latest launch in John Varvatos’ fragrance collection is Dark Rebel Rider, a flanker to last year’s Dark Rebel. The fragrance is billed as “provocative” and Flores-Roux even calls its Russian leather note as “ultra-sexy”, which isn’t far off in my book. Dark Rebel Rider feels like the quintessential John Varvatos fragrance because it has the attitude of a rock star, the attention to detail of a studded leather jacket and a level of cool that is as in-tune with the Varvatos fashion brand as is possible.
Usually, I can tell whether I’m going to like a fragrance or not from the first sniff. Sure, things can change with development but usually after one wear I can make a judgement as to whether a scent is for me or whether it’s perhaps best suited to someone else. Of course, when reviewing I wear something at least three times to get a good impression of the nuances, but you catch my drift. Sometimes though, a scent will perplex me and it will take me much longer to decide whether I like it or not. Cartier’s latest masculine fragrance ‘L’Envol‘ was one such scent.
I wouldn’t be dishonest if I said that I have gone back and forth on Cartier’s L’Envol whilst I’ve been testing it over the last month or so. At times, I couldn’t quite understand the positive reviews I was reading and wondered what others were seeing that I was missing. At others, I sensed a deeper sense of intricacy that elevated L’Envol above the many other masculines it shared its shelf space with. So, it would be fair to say that L’Envol is a fragrance that doesn’t reveal itself entirely upon first sniff and that it also makes one think. For that reason, I haven’t given up on it.
L’Envol, which literally translates as ‘the flight’, is inspired by aviation. Cartier’s in-house Perfumer, Mathilde Laurent, was inspired by “the mythical ambrosia of the Gods on Olympus, a mead drink believed to confer immortality”. Laurent says that she wished to create “a light fragrance” one that “conjures up a personal and spiritual journey from within”. I have great admiration for Mathilde Laurent (you can see an interview with her here) because she is able to think about perfume abstractly and cerebrally, and has taken the house of Cartier to entirely new heights. L’Envol is yet another surprise from a body of work that has proved to be entirely fascinating and forward thinking.
Now we cannot talk L’Envol without touching on the presentation. That bottle, you guys! Honestly, I thought Cartier would have a tough job one-upping the marvellous flacon for La Panthère, but somehow they’ve managed it. L’Envol, in the 100ml size, is a detachable tube housed within a glass cloche. There’s no bottom to the glass dome, which leaves the fragrance suspended gracefully in midair. The bottle was designed to ensure that the fragrance never touched the ground, hinting at the fragrance’s aviation-based inspirations. It is nothing short of a work of art, but does the fragrance itself live up to the beauty of the bottle? Let’s find out!
I do like a bit of Prada, it’s true. Their fragrances are so in synch with their brand, offering modern luxury, innovation and often a splash of humour, right from the elegant Infusions all the way to the mischievous Candy. In fact, one of my current summer obsessions has been their Infusion de Cedre, which is that rare thing: an aldehydic floral for men. Anyway, I digress. Prada have just launched two new pillar fragrances: La Femme Prada and L’Homme. The Femme is a wonderfully voluptuous white floral in a golden sheen, whilst the masculine is much softer, warmer and greyer. Click here to head on over to Escentual to read my full review.
For my column this week, Escentual asked me to delve into the world of Montblanc Legend, a fragrance created to capture the illustrious spirit of the Montblanc brand. I was also tasked with sniffing the two flankers in the series; Legend Intense and Legend Spirit. All three are well-composed masculines that throw in a few intriguing twists, especially Spirit which has a wonderful fresh banana note! Click here to head on over to Escentual to read my full review.