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?
Jo Malone London are the mixologists of the scent world. They piece together a perfumed pantry’s worth of ingredients to make intriguing compositions that we, the fragrance lovers, can mix-up and combine in any way we see fit. Within their main line, the scents are usually light, easy-to-wear little ditties that manage to be complex and intriguing without being particularly demanding, whilst their Cologne Intense collections offers up richer and more substantial compositions. Personally, I’m a big fan of the brand and I love many of their scents for their effortless wearability and one of their fragrances (Mimosa & Cardamom) is easily in my top ten of all time, so yes, Jo Malone London definitely grabs my attention whenever they launch something new.
The latest scent to come from Jo Malone London’s Cologne Intense collections is Myrrh & Tonka, an oriental composed by Mathilde Bijaoui (Etat Libre d’Orange Like This). The brand rather evocatively describes it as “a nomad song of sand and smoke-threaded twilight” which paints the image of a fragrance that appears within a rich tapestry of colours. Unlike the last Cologne Intense fragrance Orris & Sandalwood, which played with polar opposites (soft vs hard), Myrrh & Tonka celebrates the complimentary relationship between its top billing ingredients. Let’s take a sniff…
“There is an atmosphere of addiction and carnal richness to this fragrance which appeals to both men and women. At the top there is a hint of lavender and a floral note, creating a comforting and voluptuous opening. The big, rich heart and base note of myrrh is sensual. And the tonka brings generosity. It’s captivating and mesmerising.”
I think I may have said it before but I’m going through a rose thing at the moment – this moment being the last two years, in fact. I’ve always appreciated rose, but over the last few years I’ve amassed a collection of rose fragrances ranging from the beautiful simplicity of Acqua di Parma’s Rosa Nobile to the gourmand delicacy of Elie Saab’s Essence Nº1, and all that’s in between. So it’s not too difficult to convince me to sample and fall in love with something chock full of rose. Enter Origin by Aqualis.
Origin is one of four fragrances from new niche brand Aquãlis (the others being Coda, Utopia and Freedom). The brand is the brainchild of Steyn Grobler, a South African native who has spent his career working in the luxury realm, with brands such as Boadicea the Victorious to name just one. For his own fragrance brand, Grobler has created the ‘Evolution’ range which, through olfaction, expresses significant moments in his life. Origin, the stand out in the collection, pays homage to his half-Namibian origin and is described as a “galactic explosion of matter”. Sounds intriguing, huh?
I don’t mean rhinestones!
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
– Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Marilyn Monroe knew a thing or two about glamour, I’d say, and in her iconic performance of the Carol Channing-composed ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in Gentleman Prefer Blondes she said it best when she said that, when it comes to diamonds, a man better get you the real thing, or else. Like diamonds, niche perfumery should be subject to such a discerning set of rules because, let’s face it, there are many pretenders out there – tons of cubic zirconia brands that offer a pretty package but not much in the way of honest olfactory beauty. Niche fragrance is all about offering something special, something unique and something more luxurious than the mainstream fair, and many brands provide sparkle, but none of the lasting interest that they should.
One brand that I recently discovered with both style and substance is Orlov Paris. I’m a sucker for a good story and theirs is one that is refreshingly devoid of tacky gimmicks. Brand founder Ruth Méaulle is a Gemologist who loves fragrance as much as she does diamonds. Having worn some cracking scents in her life, the likes of Carnal Flower and having gifted equally wonderful fragrances to her mother (Amarige) and husband (Vétiver Extraordinaire), Méaulle realised that she had followed one perfumer with each of these fragrant choices: the legendary Dominique Ropion. So it makes sense that, when Méaulle decided to start her own fragrance house, Orlov Paris (Orlov being Russian for ‘Our Love’), Monsieur Ropion was the only nose she could work with.
Each of the fragrances within the Orlov Paris collection is inspired by a legendary stone, with the first five taking their inspiration from iconic diamonds. The best seller, Flame of Gold, is named after the Diamonds International award winning canary yellow diamond of the same name, which weighed in at a whopping 29 carats. Originally set in a necklace but later purchased by Texas oilman E.E. “Buddy” Ogelmen for his wife, Oscar-winning actress, Greer Garson, the location of the diamond today is unknown. Like the stone, Flame of Gold the fragrance is mysterious and dazzles with warm light in shades of yellow, glowing with amber, vanilla, leather and cedar wood. Talk about divine.
I feel like we’re going from the ridiculous to the sublime with fragrance reviews on The Candy Perfume Boy this week. We started with Frédéric Malle’s Monsieur., which whilst fabulously composed is almost comically butch (which in my world is a compliment, of course) and yet we finish with Ruth Mastenbroek’s Oxford which is an entirely more refined and subtle affair. The two fragrances are so different in fact, that a comparison would be silly, so let’s move on and focus solely on Oxford.
Oxford is Ruth Mastenbroek’s third fragrance and it’s a unisex scent inspired by the perfumer’s time spent studying at Oxford University. It’s classified as an oriental, but as one would expect from a fragrance inspired by an established British institution, this is far from an East-looking perfume, in fact it takes the familiar notes of this fragrance family and spins them into something hopeful and free-spirited, just like one’s university days. The official description of Oxford is as follows:
“…inspired by my experiences at Oxford University, where I studied chemistry at Lady Margaret Hall. The scent of the French cigarette brand Gitanes, with its connotations of other-worldly chic and sophistication, was new to me as an innocent undergraduate. It came to embody for me the moment of discovery- when you realise you can make your own mistakes, your own choices, and discover life’s extraordinary adventure. I describe Oxford as the scent of an awakening.”
Happy new year to you, Dear Reader. I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas involving lots of fragrant gifts and that your new year was a ball. 2016 will be The Candy Perfume Boy’s fifth year and it feels like the blog has come a long way since our very first post (a review of the ill-fated but remarkably beautiful Shalimar Parfum Initial, no less) back in July of 2011. Last year was a stressful year for me personally, due to work, the loss of a friend and an exciting, yet complicated house move, and it would be fair to say that my posts have not been as regular as they should have. I hope to change this for 2016 with more regular reviews and instalments in series such as The Scent a Celebrity Series and The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to. Here goes!
One thing I’d like to do is look back a bit more. The perfume industry is so active, with thousands of launches each and every year, and it’s very easy to get caught up in all that’s new and exciting. So when there is time and the mood strikes, I’d like to focus on fragrances that aren’t brand new, but are wonderful none the less. Kicking us off on that theme are two recent discoveries for me from the legendary niche house L’Artisan Parfumeur. These two scents, Tea for Two and Bois Farine, show how meticulous and measured the brand was during its more focused days. L’Artisan seem to have been seeking an identity for themselves over the last few years and have created some exquisite scents along the way (Séville à l’aube, Traversée du Bosphore, Déliria, Al Oudh, Nuit de Tuberéuse etc.), but the greatness of the some of the oldies in the collection cannot be ignored. Tea for Two and Bois Farine are two standouts.
As I walked up the Crawford Street in Marylebone, London, towards the new Perfumer H store, I must admit that I had a fair few butterflies in my stomach. I’m a nervous person at the best of times, but I was especially so on this occasion because I was on my way to meet Lyn Harris, the nose that puts the ‘Perfumer’ and the ‘H’ into Perfumer H. Harris’ CV precedes her, having built the hugely successful fragrance house, Miller Harris, from scratch in her early twenties, to the global lifestyle brand that it is today, Harris has a knack for making unfussy perfumes with a spirit of clarity. This spirit is not lost in Perfumer H however, it is presented in an entirely different way.
Stepping across the threshold of Perfumer H, I needn’t have been worried or been nervous at all, as the whole experience was an entirely relaxed affair, from the setup of the shop to the rather insightful chat I had with Harris herself over a cup of hot bergamot tea. As I enter the store, I’m greeted by a dog snoozing calmly on the chair. His name is Pop and he’s a handsome border terrier who, quite rightly, appears rather at home amongst the inviting, yet surprisingly minimal decor of the store. The presence of Pop cements the fact that Perfumer H is not a brand in the typical sense, with a pre-defined personality or ethos. Instead, Perfumer H is an extension of Lyn Harris, and its personality is Lyn as she is today, and it says what she wants to say, all through the medium of olfaction.
Tom Ford is a man that knows a thing or two about glamour. I refer you to this image of Gwyneth Paltrow dressed in TF at the Oscars, should you require any evidence. Mr. Ford creates exceptionally tailored suits for some of the world’s most attractive gents in addition to beautiful womenswear pieces that often channel old Hollywood glamour. He pushes the boundaries too and it’s safe to say that Ford is not averse to ‘sexing things up’ more than a little bit, as many of his advertisements will prove!
It’s safe to say that Tom Ford also knows quite a bit about fragrance too, and since he launched his first fragrance way back in 2006, he has created a veritable empire of scent that dominates department stores across the globe. Of course, when fragrance and glamour meet, the results can be very interesting indeed, and within his brand, Ford has many a fabulous fragrance, ranging from the casual chic of Violet Blonde, to the mysterious opulence of Fleur de Chine, with all of the glamour in the world in between.
I speak of the subject of glamour because Ford’s latest feminine fragrance, ‘Noir Pour Femme’, strikes me as a scent that practically pulsates with fierce feminine beauty. Created as the feminine counterpart to Noir, Tom Ford’s popular masculine from 2012, this interpretation for women has been designed to be as “suggestive as a slashed jet-black dress revealing the curve of woman’s shoulder, or the kissable dip of her back”. As you can probably imagine with a description like that, Noir Pour Femme is all sexed up glamour and no shame.
Perfume lovers across the world have been watching the New Forest studio of Papillon Artisan Perfumes with bated breath. Last year, Papillon launched with three fragrances; Angelique, Anubis and Tobacco Rose – three perfumes that boldly said that a scent should be beautiful and unique, rather than awash with gimmickry. Papillon Artisan Perfumes have been a refreshing addition to the world of perfume that, along with Sarah McCartney’s hugely important 4160 Tuesdays, has put independent British perfumery on the map – a fact reflected by the nomination of all three Papillon scents for Best New Independent Fragrance at this year’s Fragrance Foundation Awards. It stands to reason then, that Papillon’s latest scent ‘Salome‘, launches in a veritable cloud of fragrant excitement.
You will hear a lot of talk about Salome and her erotic, and animalistic tendencies over the coming months. “Pure filth” is what they’ll call her and perfume lovers here, there and everywhere will revel in her raunchy and primal ways. But there’s more to Salome than meets the eye, and there’s another facet that deserves praise – her golden sheen and glittering sense of movement, to be specific. Salome is a dancing diva moving methodically and mesmerisingly through the many hypnotic motions of the dance of the seven veils.
Salome takes its name from the biblical character – the daughter of Herod and the dancing woman from the New Testament. In a recent interview on The Candy Perfume Boy, Papillon Perfumer Liz Moores explained how a vintage photograph of a 1920s flapper girl was the inspiration for Salome; “I have an original vintage photograph of a 1920’s flapper girl in a state of undress; she’s positioned side on to the camera with her breasts bared and the lower half of her body only slightly covered with ostrich feathers. The woman in this photograph fascinates me; I have often wondered who she was, where she lived in the world and what her name might have been. In my head I called her Salome, a name befitting such a beautiful and daring woman of her time.” This photo, which potrays the seductive dancer partly nude informs Salome’s vintage tones and erotic escapades. This is a fragrance made in a style seldom seen in this modern, post-IFRA age, and it acts as a startling reminder that perfumes can still be richly textured, gloriously complex and absolutely, downright filthy.
I must admit that I have a little bit of a soft spot for Jo Malone London. In my opinion they do what they do and they do it very well, specifically, they create pleasing, low-key fragrances for scenting both people and their homes, and package them all beautifully. Jo Malone London sell a lifestyle, one that is housed within the simplicity of their structured bottles, placed carefully in gorgeous boxes and tied with beautiful bows. It’s a life that looks and smells good.
Over the last year or so, the brand has started to become a little bit bolder with their offerings. Rain & Angelica, a limited edition from their London Rain collection was weird and glassy, like crystallised drops of summer rain. There was also last year’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt, another unusual blend that was somewhere between salted caramel and sea spray. Oh and we mustn’t forget Incense & Cedrat, the latest addition to the Cologne Intense collection and an absolutely gorgeous benzoin-heavy incense that begs to be snuggled. They’ve been very busy making some intriguing scents, it must be said.
The hard work of Jo Malone London continues this autumn as September sees the launch of a brand new pillar fragrance for the brand. Focusing on the rich notes of Mimosa & Cardamom, this new launch (unsurprisingly called ‘Mimosa & Cardamom‘) created by perfume Marie Salamagne is an ode to word travel, eclectic fabrics and a mixture of cultures seen through the lens of a bohemian blend of flowers and spice. Without offering too many spoilers for the rest of the review, I will say that Mimosa & Cardamom really lives up to its inspiration and I for one think that it’s great to see such an underused yet fascinating note as mimosa being used front and centre in a mainstream fragrance. Good work, JML.