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.