I’ll be perfectly honest and say that I’ve found the fragrances from the house of Thameen to be a bit hit or miss. I fell head over heels for the dry dusty rose of Noorolain Taif, but others in the collection left me cold. I think that the concept of fragrances inspired by famous jewels is really evocative and the presentation has this cool clash where royal blue bottles in a classic shape clash against the modernism of their black, spiked caps. What’s more, the bottles really glow when they hit the light. I just felt that some of the fragrances weren’t as dynamic as perhaps the presentation suggested they might be.
Fast forward to Thameen’s latest launch and a pleasant surprise. This launch takes its inspiration (and its name) from the Cora sun-drop diamond – the largest, yellow, pear-shaped diamond in the world (racking up an impressive 110.3 carats and forming between 1 and 3 billion years ago – no biggie), so it’s no surprise that the fragrance itself is a rather large and showy scent. Described by Thameen as a fragrance “suffused with phosphorescence”, The Cora takes the traditional white floral and injects it with an entire sun’s worth of light.
This year I was lucky enough to once again judge two fragrance categories at the Stylist Best Beauty Awards. It’s an honour to judge and what I love most about it, is that I always discover something new and exciting that I haven’t sniffed before. This year my discovery was the Tom Daxon line of fragrances. Now these are not new, nor are they fragrances that are difficult to get hold of, in fact it would have been super easy for me to try them long before now, I just didn’t get around to sniffing them with all the other stuff that’s out. So I’m officially late to the Tom Daxon party, but I am super chuffed to have been invited because there is some seriously good perfumery going on here.
Tom Daxon the brand is the brainchild of Tom Daxon Bowers who, at the age of 27 created his very own fragrance line. But fragrance and cosmetics are things that run in the family, and his mother spent time working as the Creative Director of Molton Brown. But Tom Daxon is very much the vision of the brand owner, taking inspiration from individual ingredients to create beautiful fragrances boasting the best synthetic and natural materials around. Working with Perfumers in Grasse, Tom Daxon Bowers has crafted a brand that is cohesive, distinct and abstract, but most of all he has created some truly beautiful fragrances.
There’s a clean, structural quality to the Tom Daxon collection that filters down from the stark minimalism of the sleek, architectural bottles to the fragrances themselves, which present bold accords with remarkable clarity and modernity. As an example of this I’m reviewing the two fragrances that won at this year’s Stylist Best Beauty Awards; Iridium (Best Niche Fragrance) and Magnolia Heights (Best Floral Fragrance). I think you’ll agree that they are very worthy winners indeed!
Tom Ford knows his way around the note of oud. Within his own brand he has a mini-collection of oud fragrances amongst his many Private Blends, each of which takes the style of oud in a very different direction. He’s also the man behind YSL’s M7 which was one of the first mainstream fragrances to promote the use of oud (whether it was the first is up for debate). So it’s safe to say that oud is very much a signature of the Tom Ford brand and it’s a style of fragrance (and I say style instead of note because it’s really more of a genre than a singular ingredient).
The latest addition to Tom Ford’s oud oeuvre is Oud Minérale – a fragrance that intends to approach oud from a much fresher angle. The brand describe it as a scent that merges “rare and precious oud with the fresh exuberance of the ocean”, which may lead one to think that perhaps this is an oud too far. After all, smoky, animalic, middle eastern oud is on the polar opposite end of the fragrance spectrum to anything remotely aquatic. But to think that, whilst justified, would not be correct because Oud Minérale is a clever little composition that manages to find the common ground between these two opposing styles.
This review has to start with a big fat disclaimer. I am good friends with Liz Moores, the founder and perfumer behind Papillon Artisan Perfumes and I was involved in creating the promotional shots for the fragrance we are talking about today. For that reason one could say that this is not an entirely unbiased review and it probably isn’t. But please note that if Dryad wasn’t my cup of tea, or of interest, I would simply have not written about it. Luckily for all of us scent lovers, it’s quite lovely.
So please approach this as a quick review of a perfume I’ve become very familiar over the last few months and one that I could never approach from an objective standpoint because I have spent so much time with it, trying to understand and visualise its character.
If you’ve been following Liz on social media you’ll know that she’s based in the New Forest, literally right in the forest itself. She is surrounded by nature and the perfumes she creates absorb her environment, providing inspiration. For Dryad, her latest fragrance, the forest is Liz’s muse. Liz’s daughter, Jasmine has written a beautiful poem inspired by Dryad, and it’s the following few lines that sum the perfume up for me and led to the inspiration for Dryad’s visual adventure:
“My body is swelling with the oak’s root and seed
Our veins and our vines weave together with ease,
And as your chatter dispels at the shake of our leaves,
You set your ear to our chest, to hear the whisper of trees.
We rise not in your throat, nor your mouth, nor your teeth.
But we streak coloured streams set to dazzle.”
Etat Libre d’Orange is one of my all-time favourite perfume brands. They burst onto the scent with a collection of fragrances that stuck two big fingers up at the industry, acting in a manner that was disruptive, innovative and horrifyingly beautiful. Ever since their launch, Etat Libre d’Orange has proved that they have just as much substance as they have style and they’ve continued to innovate, creating some of the most fascinating scents of the last decade. So yes, I’m a fan, but because of this my expectations are very high.
For their latest fragrance, Etat Libre d’Orange have teamed up with journalist and author Chandler Burr to create a scent inspired by his novel ‘You or Someone Like You’, or more specifically, the novel’s lead character, Laura. The scent, which shares the novel’s name, has been created by perfumer Caroline Sabas and is her first outing for the brand. The notes have been left to the imagination of the wearer because, as Burr puts it “the scent is the scent, if you need to know what’s in it, “You” is probably not for you” (insert eye roll). That said, there are notes of rose and mint mentioned in the press release, and it’s clear from sniffing it that these two elements play a large role in this olfactory tale. Speaking of sniffing, let’s stick our noses into this latest chapter in Etat Libre d’Orange’s Odyssey of the Obscure.
Seeing as we spent yesterday talking about perfume and photography, it makes sense that our first fragrance review of the week is one inspired by that very art form. Now, if you’re not familiar with Olfactive Studio you really should familiarise yourself. I think it’s one of the most exciting and well thought-out niche brands out there and where so many try to do something different but do so in a muddled way, Olfactive Studio avoids gimmicks and succeeds in creating a strong narrative in each of their perfumes. So yes, they’re an exciting niche brand that you should really explore!
For their latest scent, Close Up, Olfactive Studio has taken inspiration from a photograph taken by Armenian photographer Suren Manvelyan. The shot is a close up of an eye that questions one’s perceptions. As Olfactive Studio ask, “is it an eye wide open or a miniature world replete with lands and oceans?”. Close Up is inspired by these contrasts and presents in stunning detail, the opposition of warm, fuzzy notes against vibrant fruits. Is it a soft blanket of amber, or is it a bowl of alcohol-soaked cherries? The question persists.
The perfume community is very protective. All you need to do is search the subjects of European regulations, IFRA and reformulations on any fragrance forum to get an idea of just how protective perfume lovers are, and I’m right there with them. Heritage should be looked after, but at the same time, I think we all have to appreciate the fact that the world, and the industry for that matter, are ever-evolving. Things change, whether that’s because certain materials stop being available, regulations restrict their use, or because brands change hands. Change is inevitable but does that mean we have to accept it?
One of the topics that receives constant criticism is the fact that independent niche houses are being snapped up at rapid pace by big houses. So far we’ve seen Estée Lauder acquire By Kilian, Le Labo and Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, whilst Puig have acquired Penhaligon’s and L’Artisan Parfumeur. Most recently LVMH bought Maison Francis Kurkdjian and this certainly set the tongues of the perfume community wagging, and rightly so, because it’s a big deal (although MFK has always been positioned as more ‘luxe’ than niche). More often that not, people view these acquisitions as brands selling out or a pre-cursor to their spirit, and beloved fragrances being crushed by corporate greed. But are they really a bad thing? Or are they just a reminder that, first and foremost, perfume is a business?