Byredo Black Saffron
Black Saffron by Byredo

Anyone who has been within an inch of this blog or my Twitter feed will know that my latest obsession is Byredo’s 1996. Never before has a perfume so quickly made its merry little way up to the very top of my wish list, leaving me drooling and lusting after it so badly that my long-suffering partner had no choice but to gift me a bottle for Christmas. For his sanity you understand?

So yes, I was very pleased with my bottle of 1996 and even more so when I found a little sample of a Byredo scent I’ve not smelled accompanying it – Black Saffron. Launched in 2012, this supposedly dark take on saffron, where the golden spice is merged with violet and leather to create something entirely unexpected, is a rather interesting scent indeed. Byredo describe the inspirations behind it as follows:

“Saffron is holy to all Hindus, is the colour of Buddhist robes and has become a symbol for India. It has always been a part of Byredo’s founders upbringing in both smell, taste and colour. Black Saffron is a fragrance inspired by this very idea of sublime unity.”

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Les Nombres d'Or by Mona di Orio
Les Nombres d’Or by Mona di Orio

Nowadays every perfume release comes with a story, normally one that involves a good degree of creative license courtesy of the brand’s PR department. This is no bad thing really, a good story can add to the experience of a scent, after all no art is quite as transportive as the art of olfaction, but at times it’s best to approach a perfume without any pre-conceived notions and just allow the scent itself to tell the story.

Some stories in particular are important and the tale behind Mona di Orio’s latest release – ‘Violette Fumée‘ – is both worth telling and incredibly touching. Created privately by Mona di Orio before her death for the private use of her business partner and co-founder Jeroen Oude Sogtoen, Violette Fumée captures “the melody of Jeroen’s favourite passions, memories and materials.” It’s a perfume made out of love, admiration and respect.

On an olfactory level, Violette Fumée is described by the brand as an “oriental balsamic floral” and in the same vein as many other perfumes from the house it feels incredibly unusual when compared to its peers. It stands as a true testament to Mona’s talent as a perfumer and is a fitting legacy for someone who brought so much intrigue to the world of fragrance.

From Latin America to China via Russia and India and the Gulf
From Latin America to China via Russia and India and the Gulf

If I could change one thing about my life it would be to ensure that I was better travelled than I am. In my head I long to be a great explorer scouring every corner of the earth. I want to walk the Great Wall of China, taste the street food in Mexico, eat lobsters in Maine (it all comes back to food with me), play with the cats at the cat cafe in Tokyo and float around the streets of Florence , but the problem is, I’m a bit of a wimp.

So, as much as I wish I’d visited all of these places, and I do truly hope to one day, I haven’t, in fact up until a few years ago I hadn’t made it further than France. It’s appalling, I know. Luckily for us armchair explorers, with Ormonde Jayne’s latest collection ‘The Four Corners of the Earth’ one can visit the most exotic destinations without even removing one’s pyjamas. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been to the Gulf, Russia, Latin America and China…

For the Four Corners of the Earth collection Linda Pilkington and perfumer Geza Schoen have taken Ormonde Jayne on a trip round the globe, soaking up the sights, smells and colours of four distinct cultures without diluting the brand one bit, and this is what makes the collection so excellent; the fact that despite the strong influences of their respective homelands, each fragrance still very much follows the Ormonde Jayne signature of refined, elegant fragrances. After all, it’s not just where we go that shapes who we are, it’s where we come from too.

Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday by JaxAble on Deviantart

I don’t know about you but it took me a long time to ‘get’ Serge Lutens. The line that is, not the man himself, I doubt there is anyone on the planet who can profess to ‘get’ Serge Lutens himself, but I digress. Yes, it took me a long time to understand why everybody raved about everything Lutens, there was just something about all of those thick-set, heavy orientals that simply didn’t click with me.

But alongside his dense orientals Lutens has a number of gothic florals (Iris Silver Mist, Tubéreuse Criminelle and Sarrasins etc) that really do speak to me and it wasn’t until I tried these that I felt compelled to convert and pray at the altar of Sergeism. It is this great love of Serge’s florals that made me so excited to try his latest exclusive offering, a perfume that focuses on a highly fragrant, yet elusive flower that yields no oil; the gardenia.

Une Voix Noire (A Black Voice) is the name of Uncle Serge’s essay on gardenia and it takes its inspiration from famous American jazz-singer Billie Holiday, or “Lady Day” as she was sometimes known. For the lady who wore gardenia flowers in her hair, Lutens and his olfactory-partner-in-crime Christopher Sheldrake have created a fragrance that evokes the odours of “jazz, drinks and the night, and, beyond all that, a troubling line of white gardenia-scented smoke.”

Dita Von Teese

I have started a love affair with By Killian, the line of perfumes that is, not the man himself (although he is rather dashing). Having been introduced to the line only a few weeks ago, I have found myself spending lots of time pouring over my samples, oohing and ahhing each time I spray one on my skin.

So far I’ve only had very limited exposure to the line (a total of five) and out of the ones I have tried, Back to Black is by far my favourite. Back to Black is everything a perfume should be; complex, high quality, long lasting and most of all – dramatic.