In the Welsh language “hwyl” is a “stirring feeling of emotional motivation and energy” but it is the solace of Japanese forests that Aēsop cite as inspiration for their latest fragrance that carries this Welsh name. Now, if you don’t know Aēsop you are missing out. They make the most beautiful skincare and body products, fusing together nature and science for a range of treats for the face, body, hands and more! What’s more, all of the Aēsop products smell heavenly, not to mention their actual fragrances which are much better than the offerings from most brands of a similar ilk. In fact, they’re really rather good!
I must admit that the inspirations for Hwyl are somewhat confusing. When I smell the fragrance I can see the Japanese hinoki woods but I can’t reconcile that with the Welsh name, especially when the brand appears to think of isolation and solace, whilst the name suggests enthusiasm and energy. It all seems a little bit muddled, almost as if Aēsop just liked the sound of the name, rather than any of its deeper meanings. That said, Hwyl the fragrance is anything but muddled and it is made entirely in the manner of the brand, which is to say that it is a thoroughly exacting piece of work presented with little fuss.
There’s a simplicity and cleanliness to the Tom Daxon brand that really appeals to me. It feels unfussy and uncomplicated in presentation, with clean, structural lines favoured over anything remotely eye-catching or gimmicky. It’s a brand where the fragrances are allowed to speak for themselves and whilst the presentation may be simple (and elegantly so) the composition of each of the fragrances is anything but. Tom Daxon presents a collection with remarkable range, offering beautiful twists on familiar themes, creating fragrances that really don’t smell like anything else. If you haven’t sniffed anything from Tom Daxon then you absolutely must rectify that fact immediately.
The latest addition to the Tom Daxon collection is Riven Oak, and if you’re in to woods in a big way, then your interest should most definitely be piqued right now. Tom Daxon describes this oak-centric fragrance as “layers of smooth woods” and without giving away too much in advance of this review (because I’d quite like you to read on!), I’d say that’s a pretty spot on description. Riven Oak is no ordinary wood fragrance (see more on wood fragrances here) – it’s a multifaceted essay on the complexity of wood, with an entirely unique signature. Interest still piqued? Good, because it should be.
I have a lot of time for Atelier Cologne. They’re a brand with a very clear direction and whilst they have an absolutely massive range (over 30 fragrances!!), which includes an impressive number of fragrances across many sub-collections, they don’t feel as if they are overdoing it. Whether it’s the glorious never-ending citrus tones of their neo-colognes or the unconventional exoticism of their oriental collection, Atelier Cologne are making beautiful, well-composed fragrances high on the wearability factory. Absolutely nobody can fault them for that!
So we’ve established that Atelier Cologne know how to make perfumes that smell good, but are they actually adding anything new to the world of perfumery? There is so much scent out there and the big question is whether Atelier Cologne are making anything particularly unique. The short answer is ‘yes’ and the perfect example of this is their latest offering, the intriguing, nay, surprising ‘Café Tuberosa‘ – a fragrance that pairs two completely polar opposite materials together: coffee and tuberose. How’s that for new and unique?
“It’s the scent of your lover on your skin after sex.”
That’s how Roland Mouret described his debut fragrance to me at the launch this week, and when that is the first thing one hears about a perfume, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the scent is going to be good. Roland Mouret is known for his use of draping and asymmetrical folds in his designs, but he’s also known for form-fitting sensuality. So with sensuality and sexuality in mind, it’s no surprise that he turned to Etat Libre d’Orange, the most x-rated (and cheeky) of perfume houses, to create his debut fragrance.
That fragrance is the unisex ‘Une Amourette‘ (‘A Fling’) and it is created by Perfumer Daniela Andrier, who has been responsible for all of the mostly iris-centric Prada perfumes. I’ll say now that Une Amourette smells nothing like any other Andrier perfume – so much so, in fact, that if you’re familiar with her style, you will second guess whether this is one of hers. A bubbling, suede-like iris this is not, no. Une Amourette is described as “seductive” and “powerful”. It’s a scent that “leaves it mark as you move” – a statement piece carefully crafted to accentuate your body and draw attention to it as you strut through your everyday life. Everywhere is a catwalk, never forget that, Dear Reader.
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.
I do a lot of walking throughout the year. There’s something restorative about simply putting one foot in front of the other in the great outdoors that just helps keep the mind healthy. My favourite time of year to walk is autumn, especially in the woods. I love the way the leaves carpet the ground in their patchwork colours – the way they rustle mischeviously underfoot, moving in a tide of oranges, reds and browns. I love the way the air smells cold, and of smoke. I love the trees and their peeling barks, and the way they stand so silently like stoic totems. A walk in the woods during autumn is a really evocative adventure and it seems as if Jo Malone London think so too!
Jo Malone London is spoiling us this year. Instead of just one new addition to their collection, they’re giving us two! This little capsule collection is called The English Oak and includes two fragrances (English Oak & Hazelnut and English Oak & Redcurrant) that showcase a unique and exclusive roasted oak absolute that is sourced from “washed wood chips [which] are roasted at high temperatures, yielding up a rich, deep and smoky-sweet absolute”. Both scents were created by perfumer Yann Vasnier, who previously created the brand’s Bloomsbury Set collection. The idea is to present a different kind of wood in fragrance – forget your sandalwoods and your cedar woods, this is the noble and wise old oak, and it lends itself to perfumery in two very intriguing ways.
The volume of the output from the house of GUERLAIN is staggering. Last year they launched 15 fragrances and for 2017 they have launched 11 so far, which includes their blockbuster new signature fragrance Mon Guerlain. It’s easy to see why they are launching so many scents – not only do they wish to expand and make more of a name for themselves, but GUERLAIN have also amassed quite the collection of collections, each of which cries out for regular new addition. Where would we be without a new Aqua Allegoria or L’Art et Matiere fragrance each year? And what would La Petite Robe Noire do if she didn’t have a new dress for the season? Whilst not every single one of these fragrances can be a GUERLAIN masterpiece, some do strike gold, which brings me nicely on to today’s subject – something new created by GUERLAIN perfumer Delphine Jelk under the creative direction of GUERLAIN chief nose, Thierry Wasser.
For their latest fragrance, Lui, GUERLAIN are taking cues from the past. The name and bottle may look familiar to you and that’s because they pay homage to a GUERLAIN classic (1929’s Liù) with the feminine name and iconic tea caddy bottle of the original subverted into something more modern. Lui is billed as a fragrance that is “not entirely feminine, nor truly masculine”. GUERLAIN call it “the perfume for a new gender order” and describes this new unisex scent as having an “ambiguous fragrance trail” that is “based on benzoin”. Let’s be real, the idea of unisex perfumery is nothing knew, nor is it particularly unusual in this day and age, especially since the rise of niche has really blown the doors open on the idea that a perfume can be worn by whomever fancies it. But heck, it may not be a new idea but I’m always here to embrace the lack of gendering in a perfume. So let’s put Lui to the sniff test.