I am emotional about fragrance. We scent a pathway through our lives, remember to pause, inhale & imprint. Inhale & desire.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I Come To You, My Hands Filled With Smeared & Honest Blooms: ‘Dirty Flower Factory’ by Kerosene

I found this fragrance by John Pegg to be a disconcerting and strangely affecting scent. I have sampled all of his work to date and enjoyed his tenacity and olfactive alchemy. Not everything has come off; you can sense the experimentation and challenges in the blends of materials and creativity. Certain notes smell untamed, clawing away from themes and structures. Some formulae feel a little too grainy and unfinished. But John’s imagination is an extraordinary thing, building scent upon scent in his self-taught mind and just doing it, fuck opinion. Dirty Flower Factory, his most floral and unusual composition to date is a compelling blend of blue-collar romance, yearning and acquiescence.   

Todd Hido Witness 7 (2009)

It is the guy heading homeward after a long shift on the car assembly line. It’s late; he’s exhausted, stained and craving love and quiet comfort. He buys flowers, any flowers on the way, from some small late night brightly lit store and heads back home to his girl. She kisses his rough, ashen face and holds the blooms to her nose. In the subdued light of their traffic lit rooms, she smells oil, grease, dirt on petal and stem.

‘…All flowers should smell like this…’ she says, touching his weary skin.

John used to be Kerosene Trewthe, posting online fragrance reviews on YouTube. The name refers to an old MySpace band page John had, the trewthe part referring to his strong spiritual beliefs in a search for God. Now, I’m not a huge fan of online video reviewing, it’s just not my thing, but it’s hugely popular and some people are really good at it. It’s an informal and direct way to speak to people, usually in a straightforward this is me and my bottle sort of way. In the US it’s very dude-y and in the UK oddly nerdy or generally just a little toe-curling. I don’t like the amateurishness, which I guess is sometimes the point. It some ways it feels like a reaction against the oft-perceived pretensions of fragrance blogs and niche reviewing. Everyone is entitled to an opinion mind you, it’s just that occasionally I feel the dominance of generic guy/street style scent reviewing feels forced, an attempt to butch up and reclaim a traditionally ephemeral industry.

Kerosene perfumer John Pegg

John’s reviewing was unusual in its mix of niche and mainstream offerings and in showcasing his commitment to elucidating olfactive thematics for himself and his followers. He is a handsome, old-fashioned guy, with a discreet and wolfish charm. He’s one of those guys who will listen carefully to you, process information and empathise… yet there’s a shadow over him, a metaphorical caul, something that sets him apart as different. He can goof off, cut loose and rave like anyone else, but John Pegg is a serious man, devoted to pursuing an idea of himself through this incarnation of scent creator. I’m not sure how comfortable he is with the label of perfumer. He is evidently creating perfume, but less I think to fit in with a conceived notion of industry standards or expectations. His is a rough hewn art, pulling influences from everything around him: his Michigan forested environs, his automobile employment history, local ice cream parlours, musical influences, seasons and weather, love and sex.

I first sampled Kerosene fragrances early last year. Christos who writes the wonderful Memory of Scent blog has championed John’s work for some time and it was while browsing some of Christos’ posts I came across his reviews and evident love of Kerosene. My friend and fellow scent hound Murray sent off for the sample tin that duly arrived, personalised and autographed by John.

What was immediately apparent was John’s obsession with effect and difference. His own personal background in blue-collar Michigan and journey to scent assembly via Internet reviewing and experimentation with the rawest of materials had forged a collection of oscillating variety and imagination. John taught himself how to wrench on motorbikes to escape the all-consuming Michigan car industry. In St Clair, where John hails from (about an hour north of Detroit) the seasons can be brutal and wild. Michigan can be cold seven months of the year.  He has been quoted as saying this ratio has instilled in him a love of warmer, woodier notes, explored in some of his earlier fragrances such as Whips & Roses, R’Oud Elements, Copper Skies and Fields of Rubus.

John’s fragrances have an unfinished edge, a sense of work in progress, an olfactory mind in motion. This is not a criticism; I have a love of perfumers who lay out their workings and developmental thoughts for us to witness and inhale as them grow. His is a quiet and thoughtful style of assemblage, influenced by his past, present and emotional connections to his environment. John is very open in interviews about his work. His lack of guile and pretention sets him apart from many contemporary perfumers but also places him amid the rapidly burgeoning US niche and artisanal scene. Perfumers such as D.S. & Durga, Ineke, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, Heather Sielaff (Olo Fragrance), Mandy Aftel, Dawn Spencer Horowitz, Capsule, Sonoma Scent Studio, MCMC, MiN New York (their astonishing Scent Stories are aromas to watch…), Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors and the defiantly cryptic Josh Lobb of Slumberhouse have all helped to refine the independent landscape of American scent. 

Mr Kerosene is a little different though I feel. I hate to put gender spins on scent creation, but John’s compositions are for the most part quite masculine in tone. Even his green floral Pretty Machine was pretty savage in its massive bitter throw of linden blossom. Whips n’ Roses while ostensibly a rose was hijacked by the bleak crack of leather and bitter wood. Rather than consciously creating his and hers perfumes, John actually formulates concepts that compel the skin of lovers to be inhaled. He understands the need to taint the prettiness, smear the beauty and smudge the beautiful scented face. 

Black Vines and Dirty Flower Factory dramatically expanded his olfactory palette. The sense of sooty, discreet ambiguity still remains but both fragrances are for me an evolution in John’s trademark style. I’m not saying what came before was poor or in any way particularly inferior, but there comes a point along many an indie perfume highway when elements, confidence and experience coalesce into magic. Like artists, perfumers spend months on ideas, honing, criticising, and experimenting, often in solitude or with the help and support of a few trusted friends or loved ones. Mods are scrapped, concepts discarded as materials fail to behave in expected ways.

Black Vines was a very eccentric interpretation of liquorice, using fig, anise cinnamon and feral Canadian Fir to deepen the intensity of the darkness. I love licquorice/anise in scent and have a weakness for Diesel’s gorgeously trashy chewy Loverdose and the vastly underrated Au Masculin for Men by Lolita Lempicka. On paper John’s scent seems destined for an odd olfactory direction but once the notes hit skin, the unusual name of the fragrance begins to clarify itself. This definition of the etymology of liquorice strips the meaning back to sweet root… 

Middle English - licorice, from Anglo-French licoris, from Late Latin liquiritia, alteration of Latin glycyrrhiza, from Greek glykyrrhiza, from glykys sweet + rhiza root.

This is where John’s talent reveals itself, creating in fact an earthy and sweetly rooty scent with lashings of glossy spice and oiled sugar. Sampling the decant I have, I am reminded of corroded corridors in endless industrial chic sci-fi movies, pipes and wires dangling, glistening black in the flickering lights of chases and bloody slashing. It’s a puzzling scent, the memories of childhood candies polluted with a creamy forested haze. It’s a little like smelling sugar dusted lichen. This shuttered, pooling juice is quite a leap forward in terms of assembled effect.

I like the earlier scents though; Unknown Pleasures in particular is a bonkers gourmand with earl grey tea, lemon and a melting-down-the-hand waffle cone effect. It smells sticky and moreish, a bleak scent of wandering indulgence. Creature horrified me when I first inhaled it; the brutal menthol landscapes floored my senses. Mint on malachite on lawn on lashed leaves on storm-wrenched birch. But Creature is one of those things you just can’t stop smelling, I returned to it over and over, nudging the edges, worrying the drydown. The touch of citrus on oily sage, cypress and moss is perfect. A febrile jasmine note flickers amid the leafy assault. It’s quite an experience. I’m not sure I could wear it a lot, but the execution of shredded minty verdancy is pungent and arresting.

The interesting aspect of these earlier fragrances is the sensation you have of wearing something built. The lines, joints and scented workings are a little more exposed, one can almost feel the spaces between notes, inhale the sometimes ragged shifts from accord to accord. This is no bad thing, as I said earlier, one of the great joys of indie perfumery is personal growth and the reflection of this in the olfactory palette. No one is a perfume genius overnight. You must work bloody hard with mind, body and soul, immersing the senses in hundreds of oils, aromachemicals, extraits, tinctures, concretes and multi-facetted mods. You must be prepared for your work to be scrutinised and judged by people like me, ruthlessly wearing the juice and seeking to view beyond the convocation of effects to the hand and mind measuring materials and thought.

There was an awareness of shifting when John decided to change his bottle design. Originally his scents were housed in bottles that were hand-finished by John himself, sprayed in vibrant shades of car paint, which gave the finished product a high gloss assembly line shine. Ropes, ribbons and tags augmented the lids and flacons, making each piece appear quintessentially bespoke. The names were embossed unevenly into copper type plaques on the front of the bottles. My only problem with this design was the oddly disjointed effect the mix of colours seemed to have on the eye. Now, I have never been one for buying juice solely on the look of the bottle or packaging, but say what you like, these things matter. (You can still request these old style bottles from John if you want one of his bespoke blends, form his Custom Shop service where he works to create something unique to just you)

As the launch for Black Vines grew closer John announced a new bottle design, a square heavyweight enamel bottle with a repeat of the embossed metal plaque from the old designs. This time the letters were deliberately askew in set designs, as if old-fashioned typewriter keys had missed lines. I like these new bottles; they come nestled in a plain black bag, with a discreet tag. They are heavy in the hand and (sorry John..) buy they feel and look more luxurious than the car lacquer flacons.

Black Vines wasn’t just a new bottle though, it marked a shift in scented habits; John moved his style on. Simple. He has not sacrificed any of the charm and urbanity of the earlier Kerosene perfumes, but advanced his skills, developing a more polished and emotionally intense approach to his work that has now revealed itself superbly in his best fragrance to date: Dirty Flower Factory.

 The projection and presence of Dirty Flower Factory is wonderful, a quiet glowing aura of tainted blooms, woods and amber. John has used the strong indolic nature of orange blossom and jasmine to hint at machine oil, spilt fuels and a weird bitter soapiness that keeps reminding me of scrubbed hands and oil-stained overalls. The complexity of the aroma mix is quite striking in comparison to his earlier work, this dense and heady machinist floral smells layered and multifaceted. The chilli pepper seems to just lift so many of the elements, adding an edge of metallic spice to the skulking rose note.

My first couples of tries; I thought this was a very odd scent for John to be creating, but as I continued to wear and inhale Dirty Flower Factory on troubled skin, the dirt bloomed and I realised that this was far from conciliatory and romantic in the conventional sense. It made the skin smell violated, pawed and smeared in workshop oil, bikeshop grime. The bitterness of orange blossom is beautifully played out over these blue-collar tones allowing a sharp piercing light to murmur outwards. It’s a perturbing floral, one that perhaps will sit in the air, waiting for words to form. It has its own sense of seduction in the enamelled glint of ambered jasmine, an opiate radiance that really seems to stain the air around you. I smell a lot of musks, fuzzy, hydraulic accents that ease out a potent drydown, the musks are oddly pollen-tinted, with a oily mimosa hit as they tail off under the weight of the spice and bloom.

Floral Vortex (white), TSF 

John’s fragrances are pretty unisex; he has always been quite keen that people wear what they like. Dirty Flower Factory is a tricky floral for boys I feel, the jasmine and orange blossom are strident and the composition as a whole vibes of tender flesh and the promise of protection. But I adore it and my skin loves the complexities of disarrayed bloom, thumb-pressed with assembly line daub and the darkening smears of worked-in graft and love. There is personal magic in Kerosene juice; John Pegg works hard to conjure up new and provocative fragrances that perhaps challenge our way of imagining niche scent. He doesn’t really care for pretty or sensual, sexy or romantic. He is searching for emotional connections, impact, spark and storm. This of course in its own weather-tossed introverted way is unbearably sexy and beautiful.

Dirty Flower Factory smells of late night, complicated, weary love, the leaning reliance of two people whose desire has seen so much savagery and incandescence. As the notes drift in night, the dirty flowers rest exhausted heads and let loose dishevelled petals onto dusty, shadowed floors. 

For more information on John Pegg & Kerosene, please follow the link below:

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Powdered Wing – Hermessence ‘Cuir D’Ange’ by Hermès

I know there are diehard fans of Jean-Claude Ellena out there, prowling the Hermès boutiques, following his every cultured move out there in the scented ether but I sometimes find his work a little on the aloof side, but then this may be the point. It is never less than intriguing however, he is a careful perfumer, who has evolved into an aromatic water-colourist of impeccable and impressionistic skill.  

He is unquestionably one of the most influential noses of all time. His trademark use of spiced ozonics and his relentless study of transparency and water in perfumery has made his work intrinsically vital and much copied during his olfactive lifetime. Not content with just creating scent, he also holds forth on the subject in a number of precise and philosophical journals including a strange and elliptical novel, La Note Verte, published last year.

He has been the in-house nose now at Hermès since 2004, in sole charge of shaping and presenting the House’s aromatic personality. Famously he only creates when the muse visits him. This is quite unusual and demonstrates the strong belief Hermès have in his abilities. He is a notorious perfectionist, his honed, skeletal work is transparently beautiful, assembled with a painterly eye rare in commercial perfumery.

Jean-Claude Ellena

While Hermès is perceived as a luxury brand, the fragrances now occupy a slightly blurred area between luxury and high street with other luxury brands such as Annick Goutal, Serge Lutens and Creed, who while not exactly cheap are not exactly hugely overpriced either. Hermès are quite careful about distribution; the more exclusive Hermessence line and some of the more limited editions such as the lock bottles and the recently tweaked Bel Ami Vetiver are only available in Hermès boutiques or exclusive concessions.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Veiled Empress of Extreme – ‘Myrrh Casati’ by Maison Mona di Orio

It was always going to difficult imagining what those left behind in the wake of Mona Di Orio’s sudden death in 2011 would do when metaphorically speaking, they had to rise and inhale the raw materials of reality. Moving the House on would be complex and fraught with emotion. Her partner and cofounder, Jeroen Oude Sogtoen had built the House around her. Together, they had created a strong blueprint of scented identity, an elegant signature written indelibly across the memories of the maison.. a house of luxury, warmth and constancy.

Mona’s legacy was of course extraordinary; her Nombres D’Or collection redefined in exquisite detail the perfections, nuances and weather of classic perfumery tenets. Each year, as we approach the anniversary of her death, electronic and breathing keepers of the flame remember her, wear her fragrances and flood social media with emotional remembrance. We honour her best of all by clothing ourselves in her precious odours and allowing ourselves to wander amid complex and distinctive fumes.

Monday, 13 October 2014

A Floral for All Seasons -‘My Burberry’ by Francis Kurkdjian for Burberry

The Fox loves his florals, ivory, snow white and blinding, veiled, gauzy and dazzling. It feels like the wearing of light, my skin adores gardenia, ylang ylang, orange blossom, lily, jasmine, sweet pea and tuberose. It is the inhalation of carnality and innocence both glittering and corrupted. As a man too, there is subversion in the lavish embrace of florals. It is unexpected and sly with a nod to transgression and bygone dandyism. I think boys smell beautiful in blooms but then I am biased. Wrap a guy in roses, Madonna lily and rubbered fleshy ylang I can lose my scented mind.

Floral notes dominate both high street and niche main themes or frameworks for other formulations. In niche the flower is often diva driven signature…my gardenia… my rose... my multifarious jasmines. Perfumers like to imagine their shadowed violet, filthy rose or resinous mulchy muguet is the definitive version. The high street has its fair share of soliflores but they err on the side of feeble or just plain poisonous. Sometimes it’s a budget thing or the lack of a coherent brief or perhaps just olfactory fatigue setting in.

Sometimes I feel though an opportunity to really explode the diversity of white florals is missed. I like the concept of bouquets. In real life they can of course be dull and generic mixes of standard blooms but in the hands of talented green-fingered artists like my friends Fee and Tal who run the ridiculously gorgeous Pyrus Flowers from a walled garden outside of Edinburgh they become shimmering, emotional gatherings of leaf, petals, tone, shade and scent. The same applies to fragrance; it is not enough just to gather together floral motifs such as rose, jasmine, gardenia, wrap them in green and lay them on wood and earth with perhaps a dash of ozonics and white musks to suggest sky and rain. The Pyrus gals assemble with sensual intent, every stamen, pod, stalk, leaf, bud and fruit has its role to play in the overall composition of what the girls are trying to achieve. Combining this attention to detail with quirky containers and presentation allows the floral work to be interpreted in a joyous and interactive way.

I am intrigued by the occasional appearance of oddities in mainstream scent that question one’s perception of accessible fragrances. Some of these scents approach floral perfumery in a similar way to the Pyrus gals, creating bouquets of flowers in fragrances, challenging the general conception that the high street is a wasteland of innovation.   

I always sample new releases across the board, but there is immense satisfaction and joy to be had in finding something beautifully crafted and just a little leftfield from big name houses and designer labels. Who can forget how extraordinary Michel Almairac’s delicious leather and iris eau de parfum was for Bottega Veneta in 2011? It was one of the best new fragrances, niche or mainstream for years. Almairic was also responsible for the delicate Chloe L’Eau De Chloe that he drenched through with rosewater and rose petals and seductive vintage lemonade effect of soft dewy citrus notes.

Balenciaga’s Florabotanica was another interesting example of mainstream oddity. Launched in 2012 and created by Olivier Polge and Jean-Christophe Hérault, it was a scent that really rattled me on first sniff and compelled me to purchase. I go through bottles of it, imagining a sci-fi garden scent, created by colonists on a distant planet. There was a lot of PR and press nonsense about carnivorous blooms and the darkness of Florabotanica’s allure, but it was the subversive flattening out of the floral accords with very unusual metallic minty pressure that made the scent so distinctive and glorious to wear with abandonment.

Francis Kurkdjian is one of the most well known names in the fragrance world, one of the perfumed elite. Born in Paris to Armenian-French heritage he originally thought to dance, but fate led him to perfume instead and a career creating thoughtful quiet fragrances that err on the luxurious silken side.

He is probably best known as the creator of the iconic juggernaut lavender that is Le Mâle for Jean Paul Gaultier back in 1995. Despite the enormous global success of this scent, Kurkdjian has managed to combine a unique position in the perfume world of producing shimmering chic niche for his own stand-alone eponymous house while still remaining one of the most stylish scented guns for hire in the business.

Now, first off, I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, blasphemous as that may sound. There was tremendous excitement when FK announced his intention to deliver his own collection of scents after years of collaborating with other designers and big name houses. I know the FK line is much-beloved and I’ll admit there are petals and curves that are very beautiful. His original Oud is dexterous and creamily moreish and I am partial to the plummy depths of Lumière Noire Pour Femme, a powerhouse rose/patchouli executed with subtle force. Would I buy them? Probably not. It is undoubtedly an elegant and covetable brand with a luxury price tag but it leaves me rather cold. The look of his maison is cool Margiela-like white, everything has the feel of luxury wedding stationary. White, cream, gold, embossing etc. The bottles are very cool though, with their heavyweight metal tops, très tactile and desirable.

I think Kurkdjian does some of his most interesting work for other people, held captive as it were within a brief, looking at a brand, examining parameters, counting costs. This is certainly true of Carven Le Parfum, Parfum Elie Saab and Rumeur for Lanvin back in 2006, three fragrances I tend to always have in my Foxy wardrobe. These bright, sharp florals are sources of light and sensuous cheer in moments of darkness and shadowed days. I cant quite put my finger on why I like them so much if I’m really honest, I just know that in the last 6-8 years my senses have craved white flowers at certain times. Searching for the perfect ivory scented blooms it seemed the majority of the ones I have loved were been signed by one man: Francis Kurkdjian.  

The Carven, Lanvin and Elie Saab fragrances all bear his hallmark glamour and and sense of glittering simplicity. They may be considered mainstream or high street fragrances but sit amongst my all time favourite florals. The gentle, circumspect bouquet of Carven Le Parfum’s sweet pea, white hyacinth and jasmine was an enchanting release from Carven, the first new fragrance release under the artistic directorship of Guillaume Henry. 

Kurkdjian’s jasmine and orange blossom soaked debut scent for Lebanese designer Elie Saab was just thrilling to smell after so many mediocre feminine launches. It appeared at the same time as Almairac’s Bottega Veneta scent. He used sambac and grandiflorum jasmine and glazed them with a rose honey accord. This is divine perfumery; each time I wear it I marvel at the way the floral notes are seamlessly assembled over a shimmering raft of woods and patchouli. Elie Saab Le Parfum is bolder and warmer in tone than the Carven, which perhaps fades a little too quickly from its truly lovely apricotty breezy top.

Lanvin’s Rumeur… sigh. How much do I love this damn scent? Nine empty 100ml bottles much.. Launched in 2006 and obviously sharing a name with an original and very different Lanvin scent from 1934 created by André Fraysse. Re-using this name annoyed a lot of scent-nerds who felt it was disingenuous and misleading. But I think Alber Elbaz wanted to reference the house’s important heritage, while playing with the notion of rumours, whispers and the fickle nature of couture in general. My god it’s strong too, it just lasts and lasts, radiating its huge crystalline magnolia shimmer for hours. It’s my scented drug… there are times when I just drown in it and fall into to clean sheets, almost dizzy and blind on the fountain of aldehydes and icy petals. 

Kurkdjian said of Rumeur:

Being a perfumer is a bit like being a magician, it’s about realising your vision of someone else’s emotions. It took all my energy for six months to come up with the right formula for Rumeur because for me, it was not just about mixing raw materials, it’s about creating a memory that will last.’

(Francis Kurkdjian, ‘Fragrance Focus – Cosmetics International’ 18/08/2006.)

To this favoured trio must now be added the shockingly good new release from Christopher Bailey’s iconic Burberry. I say shocking because despite the enormous revenue Burberry (and Burberry Prorsum) generates as a successful global brand, they have seemed forever incapable of producing a scent of any distinction. Everything has been oddly naff and off-centre, unable to truly capture the undeniably stylish spirit that lies under the avalanche of mackintoshes, ubiquitous check and perversely tacky memorabilia created for Burberry’s overseas clientele.

There has been a relentless attempt to woo the youth market, overseas Asian, US and hip London scenesters with London, Brit, Rhythm, Beat and the vaguely improved reach of Body created by the surprising choice of Michel Almairic. Body’s silky take on the neo-chypré pointed to a potential development in quality in the Burberry scent department. Mind you this was all but destroyed by the utterly heinous flankers…. The Intense version was loud enough to flatten houses. One of my boutique clients, a man with wonderful taste in scent, a devotee of Serge Lutens, singles out Burberry Brit Rhythm, by the all star triumvirate of Anne Flipo, Olivier Polge and Dominique Ropion as his worst scent of all time.

Now, on an enormous (and very gorgeous) wave of Testino-lensed publicity we have My Burberry, a truly ravishing and juicy floral scent encapsulating the charm, eccentricity and reserve of British Burberry and more specifically the iconic charm of the classic Sandringham mac. The hype built up on this mega-launch for quite some time, particularly around the pairing of Kate Moss and Cara Delevigne working together in Mario’s undeniably lavish and sexy campaign. The carefree teaser pics of the models laughing on set, under artificial rain, naked under tightly belted trenchcoats made the imminent release of the perfume much more desirable.

There is genuinely lovely chemistry in the Cara/Kate shoot, both women, unconventionally alluring, rebellious and unpredictable. I’ve adored Kate for as long as I can remember, since I first saw her in The Face Magazine all those years shot by her friend the late Corinne Day, waiflike and disturbingly knowing. Cara I’ve taken my time to warm to, her face-pulling, sexed up street antics, the bi-sexuality, pretention and privilege were hard to take for a while. But in the last year she has become a spectacular model, walking runways with coltish, raw sexual energy and her face adapts to so many campaigns with seeming ease and chameleon charm. Testino seems to adore them both, (he has shot Kate for years) and has managed to capture a moment of perfect poise and status as befits the Burberry brand. But if you look a little closer, you will glimpse the polished thigh, the glint of sex under the carefully styled trench. The shoes catch my eyes, the girls’ ankles bound in leather straps, a counterpoint to the folds and gloss of hair and gabardine. It is a knowing campaign, pitch perfect in its calm, persuasive intent. But the awareness of these maverick women, held still in a monochrome momentarily is deceptive. It is a statement of surface versus the glory of juicy reality.

I have wondered for years why, with so much money to play with, Burberry have not produced better scents. I think the answer is, it is easier not to. Now however, with the luxury market becoming ever more cutthroat and demanding, it is not enough anymore for brand with the global status of Burberry to throw out duty-free style perfumery and hope the money comes rolling in. My Burberry is a HUGE advance in style and execution. The ownership implied in the name relates to the iconic Burberry trench, made in gabardine, a form of densely woven worsted twill with more warp to weft, invented by Thomas Burberry back in 1879 and patented in 1888. It is a staple item of any fashionista’s wardrobe, belted, loose, over the shoulders; the Burberry trench seriously never goes out of style.  

Even when the brand was brought to the brink of extinction by chav-tastic celebs and thugs decked out in fake Burberry checks, it was the classic beige trench, belted with discreet flashes of check that stood the test of time. Vintage ones are highly sought after. You have them for life, they mature and mould to you as you shift and move through life. The basic design has been tweaked endlessly over the decades; cut, colour, length, collar, all have succumbed to the vagaries of trends and the demands of foreign markets. But the original, as wrapped around Kate and Cara, is a timeless masterpiece of design, instantly recognisable in silhouette, tone and cut.

Paying homage to this icon is something I’m surprised Burberry haven’t attempted earlier. But in Francis Kurkdjian they have exactly the right perfumer for the brief. This scent had to smell as close to classic as possible, grand, bright and capable of huge generosity of spirit. A little touch of eccentricity and naughtiness would be nice of course. Being a British floral, it couldn’t be too reserved though. Rather like Cara and Kate; sublime and knowing in the campaign, but you know that booze, fags and dirty laughter aren’t too far away.

The heavy-weight bottle is a delight, the oversize faux-horn top a witty homage to the trench buttons and I particularly like the cute gabardine bow, integrated into the neck; this is a delightful and proper reference to Thomas Burberry’s original trench fabric. A lot of effort has gone into making the flacon this effortlessly chic. The trademark Burberry check is limited to a discreet knocked back ochre & olive rendition on the inside of the grosgrain textured box.

I really like this gorgeous rain soaked floral, it smells pretty damn perfect to me. The concept of having a fave old trench you can pick up, throw on and wear with just about anything is very alluring. It speaks volumes about iconic clothing. Burberry, Christopher Bailey and Kurkdjian have approached the creation of the scent in a similar way I think, attempting to formulate a perfume that can be worn with anything, bestowing an instant sense of timelessness. The principal floral motif is sweet pea, slightly creamier and less flounced than the one Kurkdjian used in his Carven Le Parfum. The bergamot is delicate and winsome with the effect of raindrops on urban trellises groaning with blooms. A dusting of peppered freesia heralds a geranium and quince effect which rolls off my skin like unripe Mackintosh (appropriately enough…) apples. Above all, this is reassuringly luxurious fragrance, air-after-rain clean, the notes sparkling as they open, making me smile.

I can’t smell much patchouli to be honest, despite its inclusion in the list of notes, although in many of today’s glassy, glossy launches a patchouli note can really anything from a hint of spice to smoke in your eyes. It very rarely actually smells of the dense, leathery, oily shrub that to me smells of dirty machines and bitter cocoa. It perhaps lays down the odd, rubbed linen effect I pick up in the later stages of the scent, something I find a little out of place amid the honeyed floral ambiance, but no matter, it fades quickly enough. 

It took me a few wearings to focus on the roses, but they are present and correct (damask and Centifolia) and they matter, adding a discernable romantic hue and slo-mo transparency to the beauty of the overall composition. It is an agile scent, despite the languor and elegance of the notes. There is briskness, laughter and defiance in the beauty of Kurkdjian’s masterly manipulation of classic white notes, musks and the concept of a skin bouquet. It’s all about balance. Few perfumers really understand the technicalities or indeed complexities of intricate simplicity quite like Francis Kurkdjian.

The scent returns to the concept of the trench, in the wearing and the settling, the notes like the trench itself, become familiar and mould to the body. The crispness and oddly uptight cluttered sweet pea and freesia duo soften up and become beautifully malleable with time. Everything breathes and flows with the body, My Burberry, your Burberry, my body, your body. I like the idea built into the whole scenyted concept of being asked…

‘You smell beautiful… what are you wearing…?
‘My Burberry..

Trench or scent. Simple. Classic. Timeless.

For more information on Burberry, including My Burberry, please follow the link below: