Amy Winehouse was a tremendous talent. Her voice (that voice!) was unlike any other and she crossed the genres, traversing jazz and r&b, to create her own unique sound – the sound of Amy. I remember hearing her for the first time – my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) played me the song ‘Take the Box’, in which Amy implores her ex-lover to pack up the shit he bought her, put it in a box and go on his merry way. Her humour, pain, and power all came through in that song – with that voice. I hadn’t heard anything like it and sadly, won’t hear it again.
Amy did the unconventional – she became the voice of a generation with just two albums. These albums, her jazzy debut ‘Frank’ and her insolent, pain-soaked sophomore effort ‘Back to Black’ are opposing works but each are iconic in their own right. Speaking of icons, Jusbox is a brand that takes inspiration from titans of music – from decades and artists, so it’s no surprise that Amy Winehouse is the feature of their 13th fragrance: the pink rose of Siren & Sailors. It is Amy’s haunt, the bohemian Camden Town in London, that provides inspiration for this olfactory tale – the story of a beautifully voice siren who enchanted those who heard her sing.
This week I’m mostly wearing the euphorically beautiful Jasmine Absolute (IFF-LMR) Préparation by Ostens.
One can accuse the perfume industry of many things, but one cannot call it unproductive. There are now over 2,000 launches per year and it feels almost as if a new brand comes into being every single day. Now, I’m not sure how I feel about all this olfactory noise – part of me thinks the more the merrier, after all, it’s exciting to smell new things all of the time. But the other half – the grumpy cynical half (sometimes he’s not a half and verges on a whole, I’ll be honest) – thinks that all this noise makes it difficult to discern what is good or not. How can one find the magic needle in all that hay? Sometimes it’s hard.
Perfume brands come from all sorts of places; from perfumers who want to go it alone and perfume fanatics who stumble into the industry wide-eyed and ambitious. My cynical side tells me to include the fact that brands can also come from entrepreneurs who have no passion for the subject but an eye for making money too, so let’s indulge him for a moment. In my experience though, the brands that work most successfully are those that come from people who are passionate about perfume (whoever they may be, perfumers, industry insiders or outsiders) but also understand the realities of the industry and retail. Ostens is one such brand – it comes from two industry veterans, two people that not only love perfume, but understand it too – two people who understand the challenges consumers have relating to perfume and have crafted a brand that makes it both accessible and experimental.
There are a few perfume ‘genres’ that I have never really ‘got’: green, woody and amber. Well, with time (and through this blog) I’ve learned to appreciate green and to love woods, but for the most part amber still eludes me. Amber, for those of you not familiar with it, is a blend of benzoin (a balsamic resin obtained from the bark of a number of trees within the Styrax genus), labdanum (a sticky brown resin sourced from shrubs) and vanilla that creates a warm, glowing sweetness that is soft, fluffy and gauzy in texture. It is the backbone of big oriental fragrances such as Shalimar, but it’s also used as a standalone theme in many modern perfumes.
More than being an iconic perfume genre, the amber is also the perfect scent for this cold weather. I like to think of ambers as winter warmers – those gloriously toasty and enveloping scents that get stuck in one’s winter scarf, wafting a hedonistic aura around the wearer. So as the winter draws in, it makes sense for everyone to have an amber in their wardrobe. But what happens when you don’t really like amber? Or, you think that you don’t like amber?
CurioNoir is a fragrance brand created by New Zealander, Tiffany Jeans. It’s a brand based on craftsmanship with fragrances presented as Extrait de Parfums and scented candles in handblown glass jars. Each of the fragrances have a personal connection to the founder and it shows – they are all distinct, different and showcase an entirely new point of view, that of Jean’s Maori heritage. When i sniffed through the collection there was one fragrance that really stood out, both because of its striking concept, but also because of its olfactory beauty. That fragrance was Pūroto Rose – the handsome rose.
The concept behind Pūroto Rose is really quite beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I feel as if the only way to give it justice is to quote it directly:
Three distinct scents filled the air at Ngatihaua Witehira, Tiffany’s great grandfather’s, tangi (funeral). The celebration of life with hot soil, the smell of smoke from the hangi (a traditional Maori meal cooked in the ground), and roses which adorned the tables in the food hall.
I told you it was beautiful.
Aesthetically, Le Labo is one of the coolest brands out there. Everything they do looks hip, from the typewriter font of their labels to the industrially crushed cans that hold their candles. But Le Labo isn’t a case of style over substance – they actually have style and substance in spades, and many of their fragrances have something interesting to say. The coolness of of Le Labo has made them a brand with a cult following so it’s no surprise that their first fragrance in almost three years (refreshing when every other niche brand is launching multiple fragrances a year, let’s be real) is causing quite the stir…
That new fragrance is called Tonka 25 and it is composed by none other than Daphné Bugey, the perfumer behind the likes of AURA by MUGLER and L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Botanique collection. Le Labo describes Tonka 25 as “an addictive, dark fragrance” that “evokes the smell of warm skin and resinous wood”. This is a fragrance of contrast – one that celebrates the sensual nature of exotic woods and pairs it with a gourmand twist to highlight exciting new facets.
Harmony is balance, and balance is something we often look for in perfumery. After all, perfumery is the harmony of individual ingredients – separate elements made into a harmonious whole. It is through the idea of harmony and balance, through proportion and nuance that the art of perfumery presents odours that smell beautiful, interesting and new.
Niche brand The Harmonist is all about harmony. Following ancient Asian philosophies they present fragrances based on the elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Water and Metal) in two versions: a Yin and a Yang. The idea is that an individual can be guided to their fragrance using the date, time and place of their birth – through this the dominant element is defined. It’s certainly an interesting way on taking a person on an olfactory journey – one that no other brand is doing.
My fragrance of destiny was Guiding Water – a fragrance defined as “a peaceful and natural source of vitality”.