A few months ago or so, I sat down with iconic perfumer Francis Kurkdjian to chat perfume. This was my second time meeting Francis but my first interviewing him and he was as ever, candid, fun, cheeky and fascinating. You see, I’m a bit of a Kurkdjian fan boy and interviewing the man himself was a bit of a pinch myself moment, after all, I had spent much of misspent youth dancing in gay clubs surrounded by an atomic cloud of Le Mâle, and there I was meeting the very man that made that perfume. As you can tell from the ensuing conversation, he did not disappoint.
It was an interesting time to meet Francis Kurkdjian too – just after the launch of Gentle Fluidity, a duo of fragrances that are inspired by gender fluidity and share the same materials in different proportions. It was also the tenth year of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, his eponymous brand which was acquired by luxury conglomerate LVMH two years prior. Francis and I talked his new fragrances, not fitting in, the innovative products within his Maison and how social media is impacting the beauty industry and his favourite pair of leather trousers – it was an eyeopening discussion.
Warning: I will be saying the word “vibe” an annoying amount of times in this review…
Vanilla Vibes is the lastest launch from punky French niche brand Juliette Has a Gun. I am a self-confessed Juliette fan – I think what they do is accessible, high quality and whilst they sometimes miss the mark (Not a Perfume, Anyway) they often make interesting, wearable work that offers something different (Sunny Side Up, Gentlewoman, Lady Vengeance). Vanilla Vibes is filed neatly into the interesting camp – a fresh, mineral take on vanilla that is inspired by festivals in the desert,
There is no city on Earth quite like Tokyo. It’s a sprawling metropolis, all clean and orderly, outlined by strips of neon, connected by expansive crossings and filled with more vending machines than anywhere else in the universe. It’s a singular, unique place awash with contrasts, where a fastidious obsession with perfection is the veneer that hides a dark underbelly of strangeness, and even darkness. There is beauty and art aplenty (in Japan, even pouring a cup of tea is an art form), and Dear Reader, the food is just out of this world.
I really do love Tokyo, can you tell? But I’m not the only one – British indie outfit Gallivant appear to be a fan too and they’ve created a fragrance inspired by this most unique city. Gallivant is a brand for “urban explorers” that creates scents inspired by iconic destinations. In their collection of seven fragrances they have traversed the globe, stopping off places such as Amsterdam, Istanbul, Brooklyn and of course, Tokyo. Much like the city – Tokyo the fragrance is my favourite. This review will tell you why.
What I am trying to evoke with this fragrance is that special feeling of early morning Tokyo. The air is humid and misty. Wandering the back streets, electric cables overhead, everything is tranquil and surprisingly quiet – like being in a village with small wooden houses. I also wanted to capture the tastes of izakaya eateries, fruits, spices, wasabi – sour and sweet – a zing on your tongue. The earthy dampness of potted plants outside shrines and wooden temples. It’s refined, spiritual – sandalwood and smoky incense. A calm elegance amid the big city neon energy.
– Nick Steward, Gallivant
Le Gemme is Bulgari’s exclusive luxury collection of fragrances (after all, you’re not anyone without an exclusive collection these days) and it takes inspiration from precious gemstones. I find the idea of the collection incredibly evocative and more often than not, the fragrances have a strong link to the colours, textures and emotions associated with the stones they are inspired by. Falkar, the latest masculine in the collection (composed by legend Jacques Cavallier) is an example of this cohesion, using oud, incense and saffron to capture the dappled irridesence of the Falcon’s Eye of Brazil. For me, and the story I envisaged, Falkar was a fragrance of stark contrasts…
The fact that luxury car manufacturer Bentley are making excellent fragrances is a surprise to pretty much everyone. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not surprised that a brand who is responsible for some of the highest quality motor vehicles in the world gives a damn about quality when it comes to their diffusion products – that actually makes a lot of sense. But, this is not just acceptable perfumery from a brand using good quality materials – this is really well thought out and executed perfumery that fits the spirit of the brand and the man who one would expectg to wear such fragrances. In short: Bentley is doing some great stuff so don’t sleep on them just because they also make cars…
Bentley’s latest launch is the Bentley Beyond collection, which consists of three fragrances: Exotic Musk (Mathilde Bijaoui) Majestic Cashmere (Julie Massé) and Wild Vetiver (Sidonie Lancesseur). The collection is an exploration of exotic places – Acapulco, Goa, Java – through singular materials, a story that is not new, but is really well executed here. Both Exotic Musk and Majestic Cashmere are delightful olfactory experiences, but it is Wild Vetiver that is the gem of the collection. It’s a vetiver that, even after all of the other vetiver fragrances in the world, feels new. That, my friends, is something worth turning your attention to.
There’s something really exciting and free about new niche brand KIERIN NYC. They may not offer any complicated gimmicks or a wildly unusual olfactory point of view, but they do something really surprising for niche: they offer accessible, genderless fragrances at a price point this is more reasonable than many designer brands. But this is the spirit of KIERIN NYC – a brand that wants to be for anyone and everyone, making high quality, niche-style fragrances easily available to anyone who is interested.
KIERIN NYC was founded as an “uncompromising New York centric brand” by Mona Maine de Biran (co-founder) that aims to tell the stories of the city through the art of olfaction. KIERIN NYC partnered with perfumer Mathieu Nardin, a Grasse-native who has lived and worked in the Big Apple, to create their debut collection of four fragrances. The brand has a distinct point of view with strong values. They believe in fragrances that are cruelty free, eco-conscious, genderless and inclusive. Those are things that resonate in the fragrances and are absolutely things I can get on board with.
The four KIERIN NYC fragrances are: Sunday Brunch, 10 A.M. Flirt, Santal Sky and Nitro Noir.
I’m always crushing on something scented or other. My nose knows no limits. Candy Crush is where I showcase the beautifully scented things I’m crushing on right now so you can hopefully develop a crush too.
I worry about plastic, I really do. As I get older and more aware of my impact on the environment I worry about the products I use and the waste that they produce. Recently I made the decision to stop eating meat, not because I don’t like it, but predominately because of the environmental impact of mass-rearing animals (and the treatment of said animals). I also find myself making considerations about the beauty products I use and asking myself questions like, can I reuse this packaging, and is this refillable etc.? A good place where one can make a change is with their shower gel – switching out the convenience of gels for traditional soaps.
Now, I love a good shower gel, but more often than not they come in a plastic bottle, and they don’t last very long. So a soap, which may come in minimal, recyclable packaging, and which will ultimately last longer, may actually be a good alternative. What’s even greater is that many of our favourite fragrance brands still continue to make soaps so it’s not too difficult for one to get their hands on a lovely bar of something scented with their favourite fragrance. This week’s Candy Crush is just that and more: the entire collection of fragranced soaps from Penhaligon’s.
Anima Vinci offers a very solid collection of fragrances. They riff off classic styles – the hesperidic, the rose, the white floral etc. – but bring something entirely new to their respective genres. Most are beautiful (find me a prettier rose than Rose Prana, I challenge you) and some, like Wood of Life, are new and challenging. All are fascinating, fully fleshed out fragrances created with a vibrant spirit and a sense of passion.
Sesame Chān is the latest launch from Anima Vinci. It’s an ode to vetiver via an unusual combination of nutty notes and sesame seeds:
Sesame Chān exudes tranquillity, Japanese gardens, a touch of almond pink flowers, light meditation stones, deep and rich grounded emotions, the cosiness and warmth of a winter season.
Sometimes I smell a perfume and I just don’t know what to make of it. Whilst many fragrances I smell can provoke an immediate reaction – filing themselves neatly in to piles of ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘ew’, and ‘oooooh’, some take time, and some forever remain in a purgatory land where an opinion is the absolution never to arrive. OK, so I’m being a bit dramatic (just a tad, mind) and this is all a very longwinded way of saying that sometimes, it takes me a while to make up my mind about a fragrance.
Aaaaaand you can probably guess where this is going, right? Yes, when it came to Opus XI from Amouage, the 11th instalment in the brand’s Library Collection (where Amouage does its most unusual and often challenging work), I found myself unsure what I thought, even after spending a considerable amount of time with it. Opus XI was created by perfumer Pierre Negrin – it takes inspiration from the Orient and presents oud, one of perfumery’s most popular materials, in an entirely new guise. It’s a singular perfume that brings nuances to a material that could easily be described as tired, forging something that really is fascinating.