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.
This review has to start with a big fat disclaimer. I am good friends with Liz Moores, the founder and perfumer behind Papillon Artisan Perfumes and I was involved in creating the promotional shots for the fragrance we are talking about today. For that reason one could say that this is not an entirely unbiased review and it probably isn’t. But please note that if Dryad wasn’t my cup of tea, or of interest, I would simply have not written about it. Luckily for all of us scent lovers, it’s quite lovely.
So please approach this as a quick review of a perfume I’ve become very familiar over the last few months and one that I could never approach from an objective standpoint because I have spent so much time with it, trying to understand and visualise its character.
If you’ve been following Liz on social media you’ll know that she’s based in the New Forest, literally right in the forest itself. She is surrounded by nature and the perfumes she creates absorb her environment, providing inspiration. For Dryad, her latest fragrance, the forest is Liz’s muse. Liz’s daughter, Jasmine has written a beautiful poem inspired by Dryad, and it’s the following few lines that sum the perfume up for me and led to the inspiration for Dryad’s visual adventure:
“My body is swelling with the oak’s root and seed
Our veins and our vines weave together with ease,
And as your chatter dispels at the shake of our leaves,
You set your ear to our chest, to hear the whisper of trees.
We rise not in your throat, nor your mouth, nor your teeth.
But we streak coloured streams set to dazzle.”
Etat Libre d’Orange is one of my all-time favourite perfume brands. They burst onto the scent with a collection of fragrances that stuck two big fingers up at the industry, acting in a manner that was disruptive, innovative and horrifyingly beautiful. Ever since their launch, Etat Libre d’Orange has proved that they have just as much substance as they have style and they’ve continued to innovate, creating some of the most fascinating scents of the last decade. So yes, I’m a fan, but because of this my expectations are very high.
For their latest fragrance, Etat Libre d’Orange have teamed up with journalist and author Chandler Burr to create a scent inspired by his novel ‘You or Someone Like You’, or more specifically, the novel’s lead character, Laura. The scent, which shares the novel’s name, has been created by perfumer Caroline Sabas and is her first outing for the brand. The notes have been left to the imagination of the wearer because, as Burr puts it “the scent is the scent, if you need to know what’s in it, “You” is probably not for you” (insert eye roll). That said, there are notes of rose and mint mentioned in the press release, and it’s clear from sniffing it that these two elements play a large role in this olfactory tale. Speaking of sniffing, let’s stick our noses into this latest chapter in Etat Libre d’Orange’s Odyssey of the Obscure.
Hermès’ topsy-turvy Eau des Merveilles is one of my favourite fragrances from the brand. Heck, Eau des Merveilles is one of my favourite fragrances full stop and it was the scent that got me into all things Hermès – it was my Hermès gateway drug, if you will. So you will understand that I’m a little bit protective when it comes to my Merveilles, but so is Hermès and whilst they have produced a number of flankers for this fragrance, each one has brought something new to the franchise and as with all things ‘Hermès’, each Merveilles flanker has been expertly crafted.
Eau des Merveilles exists on the horizon, where constellations meet the deep blue sea. It’s a scent of adventure and navigation, both nautical and extra-terrestrial, which as you can imagine makes for an incredibly exciting olfactory experience. For Eau des Merveilles Bleue the latest take on the Merveilles signature, Hermès’ in-house perfumer Christine Nagel has removed the scent’s head out of the stars and plunged it firmly into the shallows of the sea at dawn. Eau des Merveilles Bleue encapsulates in scent, the freshness and crispness of a new day, through the translucence of the colour blue. I’m relaxed just thinking about it.
“The wonder of Hermès is rooted in childhood, when our eyes are open to the world, and marvel at everything.
I marvelled at the pebbles, wet from the ocean; they had such a particular colour and luminosity, and I discovered on them a salty, mineral taste …”
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.”
Here we are then, at the very end of 2016. It feels, especially after the losses of George Michael, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, to name but a few, within the last week, a very bittersweet year. I say bittersweet because it’s not just the loss of the huge number of great talents this year, the likes of Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood… (the list is endless), but also because the world seems to be a much harsher place than it did one year ago. Whatever your politics, I think we can all agree that 2017 is the year that we all need to work together to make our world a better place.
From a fragrant perspective, 2016 has actually been a pheomenal year. I’d be lying to you if I said that it was easy for me to pick out my very favourite scents of the year because I really did like a lot this year, and it feels like there certainly was a huge amount of good stuff, whether that be unique and interesting new things, or familiar styles that were executed very well. But you will be pleased to know that I was able to narrow down my choices and pick out the winners of The Candies 2016. I do need a stiff drink after all that work though…
If this is your first time attending The Candies, I shall explain how things work. Firstly, you may attend in your pyjamas and you do not need to worry about drinking too much and making a fool of yourself, in fact, such actions are encouraged. We have a number of awards to give out, each of which is split out by Mainstream and Niche, and then by gender. There are also awards for Best Top Down Design and even a Sour Candy Award, which names and shames the worst perfume of the year. This year we also have the addition of the Best Scented Product Award which celebrates the best smelly product for your body or home. It’s a full programme, so let’s get started!
Here we are, in the last few weeks of 2016 – I cannot believe that this year has gone so quickly! This will be my last post before I take my Christmas break (don’t worry, I’ll be back soon enough with The Candies 2016 – my best-of-the-best round-up of the year), during which I will gorge on just about anything edible I can get my hands on. But before the festivities kick off, I wanted to share my final review of 2016 with you and I’ve deliberately left this fragrance to last for the very simple reason that it’s really bloody good, which makes it the perfect perfume to end a year of fragrant discover on. So let’s do exactly that.
Fathom V is the latest scent from Beaufort London, a daring niche brand created by musician and writer Leo Crabtree who offers a collection of fragrances inspired by the sea. I’ve not written about Beaufort London yet because I’ve found their fragrances quite challenging, if I’m being entirely honest. There’s a darkness to this collection, yes, but also an incredibly unique take on familiar themes that really does push the limits as to what is acceptable and palatable in modern perfumery. But when a brand names their first collection of fragrances ‘Come Hell or High Water’ one knows that they mean business and Beaufort London certainly takes the art of perfumery seriously. These scents aren’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, in fact they can be downright difficult, but that’s exactly what makes them thoroughly intriguing sniffs.
This newest addition to Come Hell or High Water is inspired by the imagery of “violent weather, shipwrecks and magical islands” within Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, taking its name from the nautical measure that represents six feet of depth, essentially referring to a body of water that is five fathoms deep. The fragrance is an olfactory clash between the green and the aquatic, creating something that is as contrasting, ever-changing and as powerful as the ocean. Fathom V is not your typical green fragrance nor is it your typical aquatic, in fact there is nothing ‘typical’ about this scent at all – it is wholly and entirely unexpected at every level, depth and fathom.
I have a confession to make: I’ve always found leather perfumes difficult. They’re just so damn demanding most of the time and one has to commit to wearing them for the whole day, which can be a chore if they start to get annoying, which I find they often do. Don’t get me wrong, the smell of leather in fragrance is often beautiful, but with time it can become dry, harsh and tar-like, suffocating a guy and sending himm reaching for a mouthwatering cologne to quench the nose-thirst. So yes, I like leather, but it’s not often that I find myself loving a leather fragrance, and whilst there are exceptions (Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leatherbeing the most notable), leather just isn’t my thing as a rule.
With that in mind, I’m always very happy when a scent comes along to convince me that I do, in fact, like a style I’m slightly averse to. In terms of leather, that very scent is the new Étui Noir by Miller Harris. Described, rather fantastically, as being “like a well-worn leather jacket shared by lovers with comforting flashbacks of each other” and “as deep as the night”, Étui Noir is a leather with a difference. This is a leather fragrance crafted with an emotional point of view, speaking in nuanced and eclectic tones. It’s representative of the new style of Miller Harris, which is much more focused than it has been in recent years and to put it simply, Étui Noir just is an interesting fragrance to unravel.
If last year’s Misia was anything to go by, perfumer Olivier Polge is definitely finding his feet at CHANEL, having taken over the position of perfumer-in-residence from his father, Jacques Polge, the man behind the likes of Antaeus, Coco, Coco Mademoiselle, Égoïste – need I go on? Big boots to fill, most certainly, but M. Polge Jnr certainly has a fair few hits under his own belt, scents such as Dior Homme, which, lets face it is already a modern classic, so perhaps those shoes aren’t quite so big after all?
For his second outing in CHANEL’s niche line, ‘Les Exclusifs’, Olivier Polge pays homage to Arthur Capel, Gabrielle Chanel’s patron and lover. ‘Boy’, as he was called, lends his name to the fragrance, which is a feminine take on the typically masculine fougère inspired by Chanel’s clothing, couture that borrowed heavily from the codes of menswear and tailoring. BOY the fragrance has been created to capture Capel’s “irresistible elegance” and “virile strength” and is a gender-bending scent that borrows from the olfactory codes of men and women. As CHANEL describe it, BOY is the “mark of a man on the skin of a woman”.