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?
Ever since couturier Paul Poiret launched the perfume house Parfums de Rosine in 1911, fashion and fragrance have always had an unbreakable link – a seam and a stitch that has brought them together. Today fashion houses, high street brands, and all that sits in between, have fragrances in their portfolio, attempting to, with varying degrees of success, distill their brand identities into scents that provide an accessible entry point for the consumer.
Founded in 1994, AllSaints, the London-based fashion brand, has always moved to the beat of their own drum, so it’s no surprise that it has taken them a long time to get into the fragrance market. AllSaints is all about a free-spirited coolness – an easy, ‘I wear what I want’ spirit. With a price point elevated above many high street brands, AllSaints has always struck me as a place one goes for pillars in their wardrobe – investments like a leather jacket that goes with anything, perhaps. It’s a brand that favours neutral colours, with an aesthetic that enjoys contrasts – juxtapositions of hard and smooth, of wood and metal.
With their debut collection of fragrances, AllSaints has captured the laid back, London-spirit of their brand in three scents that “contrast, complement and contradict”. The fragrances – Sunset Riot, Metal Wave and Incense City – are housed in structured square bottles topped with concrete caps. The boxes and labels each feature a polaroid negative of a flower – a design touch intended to showcase the link between fragrance and memory. It’s a collection that has been put together with clear thought and vision, and truthfully, this shows in the fragrances themselves.
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”.
The Luxury Collection is where rebellious niche house Juliette Has a Gun stretches its olfactory legs. Their other offerings sit comfortably between mainstream and niche – they’re made with good quality materials and bring unique twists to very accessible, affable fragrances. The Luxury Collection however, is a bit more serious and has a touch more of an abstract feel to it, bringing a strong sense of niche-ness. It’s where Juliette Has a Gun ditches the cool air and the fun names in exchange for some serious perfumery.
Liquid Illusion (good name – after all, perfume is just a liquid illusion) is the latest addition to the Luxury Collection. It takes its inspiration from heliotropin – a fragrant material that is also found in the drug ecstasy. The idea here, is to present a stimulating fragrance that pairs heliotropin with the luxurious note of iris – something as intense and electrifying as the inky-blue bottle it comes in. The result is something quite intriguing indeed.
Miller Harris has had a very busy year – they’ve launched two capsule collections of fragrances: Scherzo x Tender and Forage (Lost, Wander & Hidden), and to complete the hat trick, they now presents their third collection of fragrances this year: Peau Santal and Powdered Veil. Housed in bottles coated in intriguing shades of pink (baby pink for Powdered Veil and a more ‘nude’ (not a word I like to use because it only represents one type of skin colour, but other descriptors escape me, ‘blush’ maybe?) shade for Peau Santal), these two fragrances celebrate the intimacy and the ritual of glamming up – the lace of dresses, the powder of make-up, and the wood of dressing tables, and wardrobes. They are fragrances with distinct textures, of powder and skin, that arrive perfectly in time for winter. Let’s check them out.
Speed Sniffs are a way to bring you ‘to-the-point’ fragrance reviews that are quick and easy to digest. They are perfume reviews without the faff.
*Unpopular Opinion Klaxon* I like Mon Guerlain and I think a lot of you are being unnecessarily grumpy about it. Yup. I’m not sorry. The way I see it, GUERLAIN has to make fragrances that appeal to the mass market as much as they need to keep the likes of Jicky and L’Heure Bleue on the shelves. They have always taken styles populised by others and given them a Guerlain twist (see Mitsouko, a twist on Coty’s Chypre, for example) and that’s exactly what Mon Guerlain is – a Guerlain take on the caramel, ethyl-maltol intensity of the likes of La Vie est Belle. The difference with the Guerlain? It smells good.
Mon Guerlain is candy floss by way of a Jicky-esque lavender and it is eminently wearable. I find it cosy, delicious and easy to wear in winter. I was not however, so keen on the Florale version that launched earlier this year which, for some reason seemed off somehow. Now we have Mon Guerlain Eau de Toilette, the third instalment in the Mon Guerlain series and the second to launch this year – we can’t accuse GUERLAIN of being lazy, that’s for sure!
Mon Guerlain Eau de Toilette is presented by GUERLAIN as a “citrus oriental” with notes of mandarin, carla lavender, sambac jasmine and vanilla tahitensis. They see it as a scent that presents a freer expression of the GUERLAIN woman – one that is seen through a lens of transparency and freshness. Let’s speed sniff.