Trend alert: the note du jour for perfume brands at the moment is osmanthus. This humble little flower, which possesses a very complex and unique odour profile, whilst also appearing sunny and pretty to look at, is working its way into many fragrances, both mainstream and niche. But what is it? What does it smell like? Why is it having a moment? And where can you smell it? Well, read on to find out…
Leather is just not my vibe. I can just about rock a leather jacket (I have a very casual John Varvatos one that I feel comfortable in) but anything else feels like a stretch outside of my personality. So you’ll never catch me at the Folsom Street Fair rocking a harness, as cool as that would be. My discomfort with leather also covers fragrances and I’m about as likely to wear Cuir de Russie as I am leather chaps – it’s just not gonna happen. For me, leather in fragrance is often too overwhelming – too dry, too meaty, too smoky. But every now and then I find a palatable leather that I can get on with – OMBRÉ LEATHER, the latest from TOM FORD, is one such fragrance.
The purpose of these olfactory deconstructions (see Iris and Vetiver) is to understand a raw material used in perfumery by dissecting it into its many facets. By experiencing the many nuances, one starts to gain an appreciation for how it is used within a wider composition and how it can be utilised to create interesting and novel effects. Such is the magic of perfumery – where one distinct material can bring so much more to a fragrance than its odour profile, shifting and changing as it tessellates with other notes to create things that are more than the sum of their parts.
Today’s deconstruction is a widely used material: patchouli. I chose patchouli because it’s a material found in so many fragrances, many of which utilise it as a supporting act as opposed to the star that takes top billing. I also picked it because it’s a tricky note to love, due largely to its associations with head shops and hippies, not to mention how abrasive it can be as a smell. But patchouli is so much more than a new age oil, it’s actually a fascinating and multifaceted material that deserves a lot of attention – and today we are going to give it that attention!
Well that was the year that was! 2017 is finally drawing to a close and I think it would be fair to say that it has been a year unlike any other. Perfume-wise, it has been once again, an incredibly busy year, more so than any other in fact, with a big cohort of mainstream brands launching new pillar fragrances this year – the likes of MUGLER, GUERLAIN, CHANEL (all capitalised for some reason) and Hermès, just to name a few. There have been flankers, celebrity scents, and ridiculous bottles aplenty, making for an interesting and fragrant year.
Seeing as the blog had a total makeover in 2017, this year I’ve decided to rejig The Candies a little bit too. Normally I would pick my best feminine, masculine and unisex fragrances from the mainstream and niche arms of the industry however, year-on-year I have found it harder to fit my favourites into these categories. The problem being that nowadays, the gender lines have blurred considerably within the realms of perfume, especially in niche. Also, I’ve said many times that a fragrance has no gender so it seems silly to categorise my awards as such . So this year I’ve simply picked ten fragrances – five mainstream and five niche, that each take the title of the best perfumes of the year, presented in no particular order.
In terms of other changes, there’s now a ‘Top Candy’ which goes to my favourite perfume of the year (it will be a most coveted award, I am sure), and ‘Best Body Product’ has been replaced with ‘Candy Crush of the Year’ to reflect my Candy Crush posts that celebrate my fragrant obsessions throughout the year. Oh and there’s now a ‘House of the Year’ award which goes to my favourite perfume house of the year. That about covers it, so shall we get started then? Yes, let’s! A drumroll please…
Now, before you judge me with your smutty little minds, I am of course referring to wood fragrances and not any other form of wood, metaphorical or otherwise. I’m not sure what may have led you to think of anything else – certainly not the somewhat tongue in cheek title of this post, that’s for sure! Anyway, the truth is that I’ve never really got wood before, as in, I’ve never really enjoyed wood fragrances that much (again, minds out of the gutter please, people). They’ve always felt too subtle or too plain for my exuberant tastes, so for the most part I’ve ignored them or passed them off as lovely, but not for me. That however, has changed very recently.
Over the last few months I’ve started to find wood fragrances a little bit sexy. I’m attracted to them and they are just the kind of thing I find myself wanting to smell on a man. But it’s actually more than that, they’ve also become the type of thing I want to wear when I’m feeling mighty fine, or when I want to feel mighty fine. So in this post I’m going to showcase some beautiful wood fragrances that are more than just a little bit sexy – in fact, they’re all very sexy in their own individual ways. So, please put on some Barry White and close the curtains because things are going to get a little bit hot and steamy up in here as we investigate seven wood fragrances with some serious bom-chicka-wah-wah factor.
We often talk about ‘notes’ or materials in fragrances and how they come together to create a multi-faceted composition. But these materials are incredibly nuanced themselves and each one brings not one, not two, but a multitude of different things to a fragrance, meaning that there is always a lot to learn when one goes back to the source materials. I always think that the best way to understand a perfume material is to break it down into facets and that’s exactly what these olfactory deconstruction pieces are for – to dissect each material into little parts so we can really understand what makes it tick, and what makes it smell so good.
Perfume is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Each fragrance is made up of specifically shaped pieces that lock together. Perfumers match up the pieces, locking them together facet-to-facet, tessellating each nuance to either enhance or contrast them, or in some cases, to create something entirely new. The great thing is that, unlike jigsaw puzzles, where there is one way of piecing things together, perfumery is open-ended and the perfumer can tie things together in whichever way they see fit. This means that the picture at the end can be whatever they dream up. There are endless possibilities and to me, that’s pretty damn exciting.
There are so many fragrance launches each year it’s difficult to write about them all. Speed Sniffs is a way to bring you to the point reviews fragrances that are quick and easy to digest. After all, sometimes all one needs is a few lines to capture the essence of a scent. Speed Sniffs are perfume reviews without all of the faff.
Oud Wood by TOM FORD is a fragrant tour de force. A cult classic that is one of the brand’s most popular fragrances, Oud Wood may not have started the oud trend, but it certainly cemented it as a prominent part of the olfactory zeitgeist. I find it to be a soft, comforting take on oud with an unusually rubbery texture that makes it stand out from the crowd – and even now I’d say that it’s an absolute must-sniff for anyone exploring the world of oud. Oud Wood is sexy and alluring, smart but casual – a complex perfume with a bold signature. Well, fans of Oud Wood can now rejoice because TOM FORD has just launched Oud Wood Intense, which promises Oud Wood but more!
The TOM FORD fragrance collection is massive and it touches every aspect of olfaction, boasting colognes-a-plenty, a feast of florals and more ouds than one can shake a stick at. Not to mention many other styles of fragrance! What makes the brand so good, and ultimately so successful, is the fact that the fragrances aren’t afraid to be bold. In the mainstream, fragrances are made to appeal to everyone and their cat, but at TOM FORD fragrances are created to appeal and to resonate with only some, meaning that the scents themselves are often very interesting, and with so many TOM FORD scents to chose from, one is bound to find something they like.
Speaking of TOM FORD fragrances that aren’t afraid to be bold, let’s take a look at Noir Anthracite, the latest addition to the brand’s Signature Collection. Now, if you’ve tried the original Noir, you will remember it as a plush and powdery scent that felt very much like a modern, masculine interpretation of Shalimar. Well scrap whatever thoughts you had about Noir because Noir Anthracite could not be further from the original if it tried. What Noir Anthracite does share with its namesake however, is a sense of shadow and rather than possessing a blissful purr like Noir, Noir Anthracite is a fragrance that will blow your socks clean off with its mighty roar.
Tom Ford knows his way around the note of oud. Within his own brand he has a mini-collection of oud fragrances amongst his many Private Blends, each of which takes the style of oud in a very different direction. He’s also the man behind YSL’s M7 which was one of the first mainstream fragrances to promote the use of oud (whether it was the first is up for debate). So it’s safe to say that oud is very much a signature of the Tom Ford brand and it’s a style of fragrance (and I say style instead of note because it’s really more of a genre than a singular ingredient).
The latest addition to Tom Ford’s oud oeuvre is Oud Minérale – a fragrance that intends to approach oud from a much fresher angle. The brand describe it as a scent that merges “rare and precious oud with the fresh exuberance of the ocean”, which may lead one to think that perhaps this is an oud too far. After all, smoky, animalic, middle eastern oud is on the polar opposite end of the fragrance spectrum to anything remotely aquatic. But to think that, whilst justified, would not be correct because Oud Minérale is a clever little composition that manages to find the common ground between these two opposing styles.
Much like fashion, the trends of perfumery are cicular and what is in favour now, is likely to be garbage tomorrow. This is the nature of trends – we overdose on the good stuff for a period of time until we get sick of it and something else comes along, and perfume is no different. Just look at the 1980s, when syrupy atom bomb florals existed to; a) be so distinct that one knew what they were smelling a mile away; and b) to terrify the masses. Of course, those scents are as on trend today as leg warmers and zoot suits are, which is to say that they’re not. Heck, one can even look at the ’90s, with its sterile repentance of calone and white musk and see how those things too, are no longer ‘in’. It all comes in to fashion, goes out and then comes back in again in a never ending cycle.
Of course, some trends stick about and the lucky ones take their place in the hall of fame as an entirely brand new genre that constantly develops without falling out of favour. Oud is one such trend – a style that has stuck around for so long now, and in so many guises, that it’s arguably the newest olfactory family. A perfumery trend that has not stood the test of time however, is green. Green was massive in the ’70s and ’80s but fell quickly out of favour. Why? Well, these perfumes have a tendency to be harsh and bossy, rubbing people up the wrong way with sharp edges. Also, as lovely as plants and grasses are, who really wants to smell like them? Exactly. But, as we’ve established, all trends make a comeback and right now we’re seeing a verdant renaissance of green scents both in mainstream and niche perfumery: the new green.
Personally, green has always been the toughest of fragrance families to get on with. There’s just something so standoffish about green scents – something so impersonal and too redolent of nature that puts me off. I admire abstraction in my scents and too often, green fragrances are either too rooted in nature or are simply too harsh. But I’m an evolved perfume sniffer, I can appreciate beauty even in those places where I feel as if I’m likely not to find it. So I’ve put together a list of six green fragrances that actually tickle my fancy. These scents also represent the modern revival of green, which all kicked off with Maison Martin Margiela’s Untitled in 2010. So, Dear Reader, you won’t find your CHANEL Nº19 here nor your Vent Vert, but you will discover six modern green fragrances that will completely destroy that old idiom that says it’s not that easy being green. In fact, for these six scents, to be such a thing is really rather marvellous.