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

Monday, 4 January 2016

Foxy Loves of 2015 - Part III (Dazzled & Delighted)

Dragon Tattoo

Dragon Tattoo – Ys Uzac

I wanted this as soon as I read about; it seemed quite a deviation from the established quietly sublime musically inspired work that Swiss house Ys Uzac had launched to date. Run by perfumer Vincent Micotti and his wife Vera Yeoh makes beguiling perfumes that are very unique. The quality of the work is superlative, each scent a carefully formed aromatic experience inspired by musical motifs, pieces of music, Beethoven’s mysterious Immortal Beloved, jazz, Nina Simone, musical terminology etc. I have the crystalline Lale, an apricot-infused tea-tinted white floral that is so deliciously light it’s barely there, but still the skin smells of sweet glittering snow. I have Pohadka too, although I have to be in the right frame of mind for it, the blond tobacco note is shockingly realistic and sometimes I just can’t handle the full-blown smoked vanilla and hay ambience. Dragon Tattoo is a whole other ball game though. The name obviously references Lisbeth Sander, the extraordinary protagonist of three huge bestselling novels by the late Stieg Larsson. The first novel in the so-called Millennium Series was actually called Men who Hate Women in the original Swedish, but changed to the more palatable The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when it was translated. Dragon Tattoo is a scent of fierce collision and shock. I have never really experienced anything else like it. It is almost repulsive at times. I love the fact that most of my friends loathe it. The image Ys Uzac used to promote the fragrance, a punk-lite model, tongue out, flipping the bird in a too-pretty studded leather jacket was almost insulting. Dragon Tattoo is way more fucked up and dirty than any faked up faux-punk fashion editorial aesthetic. You have to remember how deeply damaged Lisbeth was, how scarred, raped and punished she had been and continued to be at the hands of men and a state system that set out to bury her. She is shockingly vulnerable and distasteful, hard to like, but she compels you to care through survival and a refusal to ask for pity. This scorned and vengeful woman is a part of this utterly bizarre and visceral olfactory experience. This abstracted homage to Lisbeth and her kind is so powerful to wear, it hangs off the skin like a battered hand-me-down biker jacket, thrashed in club sweat, split booze, make up, teen perfume, hairspray and blood. The mix of ink, ripened peach, apricot, leather and shuddering levels of primal, private musks make Dragon Tattoo quite a perverse aromatic experience. It smells deeply feminine, almost disturbingly so on boys, as if one’s gender was being challenged. The fruit has a whiff of fermentation, the musks just sliding into the uncomfortable side of sweaty. Yet, it is an exhilarating perfume, raw, pornographic and base. It has a certain prettiness, an initial allure, but then it savages the senses with fierce beauty. The best yet from a vastly underrated house.

Mojito Chypré

Mojito Chypré  - Collection Croisière & Parfumerie Générale

I have been wearing Pierre Guillaume’s fragrances for as long as I can remember, since Cozé appeared in 2002 in fact, he is one of my fetish perfumers; everything he does has intrigue and immaculate style much like the handsome man himself. His main Parfumerie Générale line is olfactory architecture, laying down his beautiful mix of classical and experimental concepts. His soft, ambrosial diffusion line Huitième Art has delicious work including Poudre de Riz one of my most worn scents. A thrilling monoï tinted thing that renders the skin divine. Now we have an amazing new line called Collection Croisière, an imaginative journey of eight fragrances (the final two Rivages Noires and Coup de Foudre have just launched) that uses travel, air, water, lakes, exploration, storms and memory as is inspiration. A key motif is Pierre’s use of aquatic and ozonic tones for the juices in these lovely slabs of turquoise-coloured glass. I loved three of them a lot; Paris Seychelles, a dazzling salt-dusted lily solar soliflore that smells incredible on tired, lonely skin; Metal Hurlant, a weird blast of night tar, chrome, bike dreams and vintage biker jacket. But here I’m going for Mojito Chypré because it was so unexpected and effervescently weird, a defiantly bizarre cocktail of mint and lime laced with mildewed forest strawberries. A scent of sweet decay, candy, booze, leaf matter and slaughtered fruit. A glut of buzzy aldehydes at the top of the scent contrasts with the rather sombre oakmoss, labdanum, vetiver and patchouli aridity in the base, notes designed to suggest an echo of vintage chypré style. The mix of damp weather and dry heritage is beautiful. It brought back very specific memories for me of wandering dusty strawberry fields, picking the warm fruit from low sprawling plants and filling crimson-stained, swollen punnets for my mother’s seasonal jam making and our gluttonous gorging in hot cars. There were always damaged, mildewed berries nestled in the leaves, white with mould. This mix of buzzy redness and twisted rot rose up shockingly when I first sprayed Pierre’s bizarre and beautiful concoction. Other people will get the cocktail thing, that’s fine. I prefer my vast expanse of Scottish fields, the air tainted with crushed berries and the threat of rain.


Fundamental – Rubini Profumi

This delicious and compelling perfume was the subject of my final blog piece of the year but I had been wearing it and marvelling at it for months. Composed around an intriguing Soave grape accord, (the Garganega variety, native to the area around Verona), this weird melange of vintage classic perfumery and modern arresting aromachemistry bowled me over. I found myself both obsessed and repelled by its oddity, but I had to have it. Andrea Bissoli Rubini’s grandfather Pietro opened a perfumery business in Verona in 1937 after the Italo-Ethiopian war. His clients included the fabulous array of night-ladies working in the city’s numerous brothels. Fundamental echoes this heady mix of sex, boozy wine-filled nights, strong musky perfumes, maquillage, men’s’ traditional cologne, a drift of cigarette and cigar smoke. Beeswax and iris bolster the wonderful vintage atmospherics of Fundamental and yet the scent feels oddly futuristic and alien at times, detached and off kilter. The nose is Cristiano Canali who created the extraordinary Romanza for Masque Milano. But Fundamental is very much a group project with talented collective input from Artistic Director Andrea Rubini, perfumer Cristiano Canali but also the Italian blogger and perfume writer Ermano Picco who with Andrea worked on a intensely detailed brief to hand over to Cristiano. And last but by no means least, anyone who seen the bottle will not have failed to have been impressed by the unusual and striking packaging by designer and artist Francesca Gotti who designed the singular cartons for Nu_be one of my favourite brands. Carbon is a staple scent for me. Francesca has used a unique substance called Glebanite®, a material made from recycled fibreglass to created two bottle moulds if you like that hold the Fundamental flacon. The pieces of Glebanite® look and feel like stone, gently pitted and fissured, but weighs next to nothing. I LOVE the design and it adds an implied monumentality to the fine, disconcerting heritage juice. It is the sheer joyful intensity of Fundamental that makes it so special. Everything has been assembled with loving care and brilliance. The notes offer a series of lovely contrasts and textures from head to base; from the sweet burst of hot tangerine down that potent and eccentric Soave wine accord, powdered iris, shrubby maquis, smeared aromatic beeswax, vetiver and Cristiano’s rather odd velvet effect to suggest the faded luxury of whorehouses, drapes and perhaps an evening gown. It is a physical scent, the notes demand attention, seeming to isolate themselves then coalesce beautifully. I cannot fault the seductive quality and skill of this work. Fundamental was further proof along with Romanza by Masque Milano, Sogno Reale from Mendittorosa and Acquasala from Gabriella Chieffo of the sensual strength and imaginative state of Italian niche perfumery.


Acquasala – Gabriella Chieffo Perfumes

Gabriella Chieffo was one of my most delightful finds last year, an Italian line of such innovative beauty and oddness. The fragrances smelled so magical and strange, each one linked quite directly to the strong artistic personality of Chieffo herself. Each of the perfumes is accompanied by painterly images of Gabriella arranged in tableaux like some sort of Renaissance Cindy Sherman. Ragu (also by Luca Maffei) just blew me away, an emotional dreamlike capture of food memory, slow-cooking the traditional Ragù sauce on a Sunday in a bright warm kitchen filled with family, laughter and stories. Luca’s use of herbaceous notes, orange, bergamot, pink pepper and lashings of cashmeran created a white, drifting addictive pungency I found obsessive. He has just worked up a new Ragu (Variation) which I received a sample of in the post the other day. OMG. He has very carefully tilted the formula, enriching the base with tonka bean and a velvety vanilla. It is sensational. I will be adding that to the Foxy collection very soon. But I was really surprised by how much I liked his hazy, ethereal aquatic Acquasala that launched in 2015. I wasn’t sure at first, (I’m not the biggest fan of ozonics) but I wore it a lot; Luca’s work is so persuasively beautiful and the calm saline drift and almost physical texture of the perfume really seduced me. I kept catching moments of it, rising up off my skin, flashes of elemi, myrrh, creamy nutmeg, dusty iris, his trademark sweet purring Cashmeran and an enigmatic ocean theme. Aquatic, ozonic..yes. But it’s the drawing back of the tides, the still sea air that Acquasala brings to mind. Oceanic perfumes have always had something of the sports locker room about them in the past, the 90’s curse of the juggernaut success of Bourdon’s Cool Water for Davidoff. This new generation are much more complex and cerebral, fairy-tale like in their disposition and intent. The extraction techniques available for perfumers have resulted in some incredibly vibrant algae distillations. Luca is one of the most adopt and imaginative perfumers at work in olfaction today and this collection of perfumes for Gabriella is gorgeous and vast in its olfactory reach. Acquasala is a fabulous, dreamy thing, soft and romantic yet gritty underfoot, between fingers, on lips. Salt of painted tears. Salt of painted sea.  


Kiste – Slumberhouse

The reclusive Mr Lobb is a fetish for me. I buy everything he does, his work possesses me like drugs and incantations. Ever since my first dark impact with Norne, I have deeply loved his disturbing essays in olfactory witchcraft. I know his work may seem impenetrable to many, unconventional in structure with Josh’s vocal dislike of traditional top notes and perfumery wisdom, but I am always electrified by his blending and the syrupy room-pervading creep of his odours. Last year I included the ridiculously sublime oddball Sadanne in my pick of 2014, a sweet vampiric strawberry liquor that in fact glowed off the skin as a fractured rose, boozy and glittering with stained glass intensity. In preparation for this review I sprayed a piece of card with Kiste and left it while I made a few notes in another room. When I came back in the air was full of honeyed, fruity tobacco tones and tiny traces of honeysuckle. Josh has used tobacco before, but never like this, Kiste is drowning in it, four different strains, golden, halcyon threads floating in bowls of peach and honey wine. The tobacco gives off its tones of hay, vanilla, clove, fur, smoke, sex, sweat and leather amid a truly mesmerising blend of bittersweet elderberry, patchouli and a chewy avant-garde heather note that comes through as weirdly hemp-like. The unusual thing that really explodes Kiste is henna, a dirty, compulsive earthen facet woven very prominently through the tobacco notes in particular. I spent many years as a student living with girls using Body Shop or Lush henna to dye their hair, so it is a scent with a not necessarily pleasant resonance for me; bathrooms plastered in muddy henna residue and the lingering smell of dirty leaf matter. It’s a very odd almost faecal smell. In Kiste, it serves to shock against the sweetness of the honey and spiced peach, pushing against Josh’s beautiful tobacco work. It is still an uncomfortable scent, but then I expect always to be confronted and perhaps alarmed by Josh’s work. Kiste also thrilled me, filled me with amazement and reminded once again why I am quite so obsessed by the difficult, time-consuming and  exhilarating work at Slumberhouse. 

Le Jardin de Monsieur Li

Le Jardin de Monsieur Li – Hermes

This was #5 in the series of garden inspired fragrances that in-house nose Jean-Claude Ellena created for Hermès. I have loved them all: Le Jardin sur le Nil, Le Jardin Méditerranée, Le Jardin Après la Mousson and Le Jardin sur Le Toit. Each one has been an inventive exposition of Ellena’s triumphant skill as one of the world’s master perfumers and olfactory artists. The green bitter mango and creamy ozonic blue-tinged lotus of …Le Nil has always been my particular favourite, but each one has its place in my scented wardrobe. Ellena’s almost disturbing preoccupation with water and its olfactive representation – rivers, lakes, rain, monsoon aftermath, sunlit bays etc – reached its apotheosis in Le Jardin de Monsieur Li, an achingly lovely and reflective aquatic essay in shimmering jasmine, kumquat and damp mentholated woods. Drenched as usual in Ellena’s trademark Iso-E-Super and other ethereal white and calming ozonic effects, this fresh and peerless wander through an imagined ornate landscaped Chinese garden became a major addiction for me during the summer. I felt robed in stillness and quietude. I love Ellena’s work, Kelly Calèche, Epice Marine, Cuir d’Ange and the glassy sweetness of Jour d’Hermès Absolu are amongst my favourite scents. Le Jardin de Monsieur Li is a watercolour of celadon green bleeding into bone white paper. The Jardin series is a beautiful and shifting chef d’oeuvre, each scent offering something different, whilst still indulging and exploring Ellena’s relentless preoccupation with the essentials of pure perfume form. Monsieur Li seems barely there at times, an ephemeral, transient vapour and yet it has lovely attendance. Rumours abound of Ellena leaving Hermès, but he continues to create extraordinary artistic work. He has been joined recently by Christine Nagel so it will be fascinating to see what comes of this creative partnership.  

African Leather

African Leather – Memo Fragrance

African Leather follows French, Italian and Irish Leathers in Memo’s gorgeous and romantic Cuirs Nomades collection which is fast becoming an important reference point for the technical and emotive exploration of how to do exceptionally textured leather fragrances. Irish was green and horse skin tinted, wind-scoured and wild-eyed. Italian was suave, succulent and creamy with lust and car-sex and sun. French was reserved, piquant, rose-dusted, piercingly lovely, a scent of cling and mystery. African Leather is enormous, feral and dry, a perfume of tension between cruel blue sky and arid sweeping savannah. It is skin, hide, fur, pelt, tusk, poaching, death and preservation. Intensely aromatic, it has a HUGE opening, massive notes of vibrant 3D vetiver and a spectacular geranium, one of the best I have ever smelled in fact; so velveteen and hothouse close. But it is the saffron/cumin/cardamom that smashes the top apart, the sheer force of this enthralling wild preface is quite something. It’s brave to open scent like this, but it allows the intricacy of the leather accord to appear and settle into ardent place. There is a sense of parched pressure in African Leather, of shimmering vista and aching haze. Aliénor Massenet has excelled herself with the leather facet in this genre-defining exposition of hot and restless intent. The leather is not supple or pretty, sweet or handbaggy, but prowling, ragged, torn and edgy. You can feel sense this in the dusty, chewed patchouli that trails the scent into a fiery end. Memo is one my secret houses, scents I wear and rarely share. Everything is magical, each scent a snapshot of startling clarity, of a place visited by Clara and Aliénor, recreated with deft and emotive sensation. Indulge yourself. Leather up. 

Room 237

Room 237 – Bruno Fazzolari

Any perfume that used a scene from Kubrick’s 1980 film of The Shining for olfactory inspiration was always going to pique my interest. This shuddering divine scent thrilled my perverse sense of dirty wonder when I first applied it. I described it in my original review as a necro-floral, such is its disturbing and psychological impact. Room 237 in Stephen King’s The Shining is a room where a woman, Lorraine Massey committed suicide one new year’s eve. Her penchant for younger men and bellboys imprints an aura of repetitive malevolence on the room. In Kubrick’s film, in the one of the most macabre and memorable scenes, Jack Torrance, played savagely by Jack Nicholson encounters a beautiful naked woman in the sickly celadon-hued bathroom of Room 237. His initial hazy arousal is abruptly shattered as she withers into a terrifying, grasping old crone, still intent on seduction. Played out against a backdrop of eerie, flickering jadeite tones and yellow and white tiles and design accents, this scene is really hard to shake, you can almost touch it, feel the carpet, tiles, shower curtain and skin. Bruno has provided the astonishing scent track, a very peculiar and lurid anti-floral that seems to bloom from mould and shadow. The most disturbing and obvious element to Room 237 is Bruno’s fascinating vinyl ‘shower curtain’ effect. It hangs in the scent, barely transparent, with dirty edges and musty flowers blighting the verdancy. A unsettling costus note sits in the formula like a phantom trying to force its way over from the other side; this is only just tempered with lemon and a creamy tarragon effect that allows the senses to pull back from the sudden shock of that unwashed scalpy costus thing. The use of aldehydes in Room 237’s top notes sets a strong soapy scene, but vintage Lux soap, hotel soap left to collapse and crack into the porcelain of sink and bath. A touch of oppoponax lends a rooty decent into residue, plastics, grime and memory. More than any other scent this year, Room 237, jolted, shocked and mesmerised me. Bruno’s fine art background, his continued career as a painter and openness about his synaesthesia that allows him to visualise and paint the tonalities of olfactory materials as they shift and alter has produced a lovely idiosyncratic body of work, but for me, nothing quite touches Room 237 for necro-floral romance and ominous beauty. 

©TheSilverFox 03 January 2016

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Foxy Loves of 2015 - Part II (Dazzled & Delighted)

Alaïa Paris
Alaïa Paris – Alaïa

It did seem amazing that superstar Tunisian born designer Azzedine Alaïa had never launched a scent; but he was an unusual talent who oscillated between enormous publicity and intense reined in privacy. His clients who included some of the most famous women of the day such as Grace Jones, Tina Turner and Naomi Campbell are generally reluctant to discuss him personally except to reiterate how extraordinary his talent was and how special his clothes made them feel. Alaïa Paris was created by the sophisticated hand of Marie Salamagne in collaboration with Beauté Prestige International. Monsieur Alaïa had a specific if oblique brief; ‘a smell of cold water splashed on burningly hot whitewashed walls’. A memory perhaps of Tunisian heat and evaporation. For such a short proposal it is arresting enough and the resulting parfum is one of the most beguiling and enigmatic mainstream launches in years. It was initially exclusive to Harrods but now widely available. The Paolo Roversi campaign and gorgeous Martin Szekely bottle with its black opaque glass design (with incised motifs echoing the laser cut leather of Alaïa’s cult collections) and a cap resembling a spool of golden thread only added to the luxe impression of Alaïa’s debut scent. The vague list of generic pink pepper, freesia, peony, animal notes and musks was interesting but not as much as Alaïa’s dictate that no one note should be detectable over another. On paper this sounds relatively easy. Yet from an olfactory and technical point of view it is incredibly demanding. During development, BPI and Salamagne honed and smoothed the complexities until this exquisite cold, mineralised consistency was achieved. I am on my third bottle of this strange, indefinable scent already; much is its moreish power. There is both luminosity and fade to the mix; I love the way the musks cling close, while the overall impression is one of disconcerting allure. As the lines and edges continue to blur and shift between niche and certain perfumers working in mainstream scent, Alaïa Paris is a sublime (and price accessible) reminder of luxurious high street beauty.    


Salome – Papillon Perfumery

After three very beautiful and remarkably assured debut perfumes, (including my beloved fetish Tobacco Rose), Liz Moores astonished us with the absolute control and subversive danger of Salome, a scent that in many ways was her alter ego in raging, seductive, raucous joy. The dubious yet potent myth of Salome is many things to many people and of course a perfect subject for scent; a vessel of purity called upon to dance provocatively, to use her body and sexual dominion to seduce an enemy and call for the head of a sacred man. I loved reviewing Salome; I wore Liz’s salacious, precious work each time I made notes in my crumbling notebooks. I was lucky enough to sample an early mod and live with it blind as it were, with no precise awareness of notes. It was shocking then, feral and thrashed with a filthy rose/carnation pairing that Liz amplified in the final version redolent with golden jasmine. Everything trembled in the shadow of Liz’s daring handling of African Stone or Hyraceum, the pissy, fur-damp, faecal-treacle animalic wowzer of a basenote. Fuck. This stuff is amazing. Ok, it’s not for everyone; I’ve seen people go white and sweat at the smell of it. I love it. We can thank the über-weird hyrax and its complex toileting habits for it. The tincture is astonishing. Only Liz Moores could have blended Salome this well, the porno-ache ferocity of the base notes, burnished by patchouli writhing through the dense petalform study of dandified carnation, indolic jasmine and that rose...such a brutal rose. I know Liz has a complex relationship with roses, but the war is worth it when the juice is this outrageously lovely. Of course Salome is a modern scent, made by a woman of beauty, glittering talent and huge heart, yet there is also a dark echo of old olfaction, the skank of bygone Caron, murdered Guerlains. This is Liz’s great skill, the sensuous mix of personal desires and imagination with an acute awareness of what has come before. Bravo my love. 


Rosenthal - Hendley Perfumes

New York based Hans’ background is in photography, more specifically lomography, with its associative arresting moods and creamy immediacy. His perfumed work is gracefully artisanal, crafted with care and immense attention to how the notes will flourish on skin. The relative simplicity of his work belies the amount of time and effort Hans invests in every stage of his perfumes; from the creation of the juice to the labels, boxes, website and Hendley Perfumes sealing wax on the packaging. I loved Fume, a throaty, fuggy forest scent that has an oddly menacing medicinal vibe as it rests on flesh. Galbanum, vetiver and oakmoss wreathe the notes like night fog. But it was Rosenthal that held me and never really let go. I love my rose scents with a serious passion and Guerlain’s Nahéma blooms at the heart of this passion. The announcement this year that Guerlain are axing it horrified me. But I have Rosenthal; it is an enormous photo-realistic rose that explodes out of the bottle like blood-stained fire. It smells both instantly visceral, like a storm smashed garden of trembling roses while somehow smelling weirdly manufactured, plasticised and brutally jammy. This dissonance is vital to the success of Rosenthal. It is dirty, both in an earthy, soil sense but also in a coital, grasping sense. Patchouli and a great chewy anisic angelica note solidify the claret-red boom of the rose. The woody note in the base is milky and cool, a reserved fade for a big bloom. Hans’ debut collection it so good it hurts, but Rosenthal moved me and made me feel so damn wide-eyed and fine.

Neandertal Dark & Light

Neandertal Light – Kentaro Yamada

My friend Euan McCall made this and it’s beautiful. I knew it would be. No bias, he is a great olfactory artist in the making. Self taught and ruthlessly self-critical, Euan has been quiet assembling a tough and diverse skillset, honed and crafted through endless mods, experimental accords and a desire to really see inside his materials. There are two versions of Neandertal, a Dark and a Light incarnation, both of them beautiful flinted atmospheric interpretations of Japanese designer Kentaro Yamada’s somewhat esoteric brief. The scent is preoccupied with how Neanderthal man if walking the earth today might interpret the demands and effects of contemporary perfume, taking into account how unique their olfactory system was. Their connection to landscape, weather, soil and each other demanded a different level of sensory perception. This compelling and abstract idea has driven Euan’s haunting and selvedge construct. Using high impact steroidal materials odorants such as cashmeran, sandalwood, musks and ambergris allied to carefully calibrated saffron, ginger and a glorious caraway CO2 absolute he has created a rarefied and demanding formula. The lighter version has wonderful salted metal effects and solar flares switched in, replacing some of the weightier ouds and patchoulis in the Dark version. He has used his citrus oils wisely in the top to paint a pale sky reflecting the flinted spoor below. The bottle is amazing, a hand-cast ceramic knapped flacon, inspired by Neolithic spear and axe head techniques. A white one for the Light version, Black for the Dark. For a debut scent, Neandertal is remarkable, smelling pungent and leftfield, I find myself craving the flint note like a drug. When I wrote my review, I knew it would be personal. I am so proud of him it hurts. 

Sogno Reale

Sogno Reale – Menditterosa Odori d’Anima

My friend and loyal foxy blog follower Jakub (he’s been with me since the very beginning) very kindly send me samples of the Mendittorosa line, a collection of fragrances dreamt up by the eccentric and passionate Stefania Squeglia. The brand launched in 2012 and there are now seven fragrances directed vibrantly by Stefania and brought to life by Amélie Bourgeois and Ann-Sophie Behaghel at FLAIR in Paris. As soon as I read about Stefania’s Sogno Reale, a scent she literally dreamt into being I wanted to smell it; I was so intrigued by the concept of marrying a mer-musk fantasy with the chthonic, feral animalic tang of hyraceum. And yet this mix of sea-urchin theatrics, rum-soaked woods, damp patchouli and tuberose is just sensational. A weird medical hit of iodine to suggest the sea is both macabre and sexy at the top of Sogno Reale and while it may dampen down it never fades from the olfactory page. The crisp crush of lemon echoes towering seafood platters on salt-swept restaurant patios overlooking bleak and troubled seas. There is sweetness, salinity, acidity and enigma in Amélie Bourgeois’ complex and divisive formula. I find Sogno Reale amazing, a scent of sensual disturbance that thrills me each time I wear it. The smeared traces of hyraceum are more subtle than the penetrating explosion in Liz Moore’s biblical porn-bomb Salome, but this most distinctive of materials still manages to leer suggestively out of the shadows. Stefania is a force of nature and her perfumes reflect her relentless curiosity of spirit and mirror the world around her in her own inimitable eccentric heartfelt style. Sogno Reale is gauzy, rich and weird, a scent of collisions and complements, coldly oceanic in places and yet cosy and pelty in others, an abstract leather facet so soft as to be almost a dream. A jewel of perfumery.


Misia – Les Exclusifs de Chanel 

Did the perfume world really need another lipstick scent? Probably not. But oh lord Misia smells divine. A luxurious, voluptuous entwining of diaphanous iris, orris, Turkish rose, Grasse rose and violet over Laotian benzoin and tonka bean; it is powdered 1920’s boudoir incarnate. I love a lipstick accord, the fatty luscious kiss of rose and violet mixed with vanilla, tonka, orris and musks. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Drôle de Rose is one of my favourites, a delicate memory rose, the scented equivalent of rose-tinted spectacles. Etat Libre D’Orange’s Putain de Palace is the slutty flipside to this, the Belle de Jour carnality, smeared and dangerous. Misia is the aristocratic beauty, trailing her subtle yet devastating charms through cold marbled halls, past gilt frames and silent footmen. It is the work of Olivier Polge, his debut perfume for Chanel; his father Jacques Polge has been in house perfumer for Chanel since 1978. Olivier is of course most well known for his magnificent Dior Homme and I adore his much-neglected Midnight in Paris for Van Cleef and Arpels. He is an erratic nose and some of his work is irritatingly repetitive or just below par. Misia got mixed reactions, it is perhaps a tad safe, but it smells so damn exquisite on the skin, I don’t care. The sensation of glittering icy fur as the opulent top notes rise off ecstatic skin is delicious; I could spray and repeat for this alone. The roses are rich and carmine stained, dusted with the faintest blush of budding dawn. That fatty, chewy waxen heft of classic vintage lipstick is echoed in the bruised violet overlay. The iris and orris root fill the formula like pale ballet dust catching sunlight in a vacated boudoir. But Misia is all about control and aloofness in the careful, poudre drydown. Misia Sert was a classical pianist and salon hostess in Paris who formed a close friendship with Coco Chanel that lasted decades. This truly lovely vintage style Exclusif from Olivier Polge at Chanel is a fitting and fabulously atmospheric tribute to a fascinating woman. It is a scent I desperately want to have an affair in which sounds outrageous.. but it’s a perfume for clandestine skin, hotel room shadows and the heave of guilt. A must have I think for any serious lover of romance and Chanel.  


Panorama – Olfactive Studio 

2015 was the year I finally fell in big love with Olfactive Studio after kinda being a bit meh about for them for a while. I liked the concept a lot, a collaboration between Céline Verleure’s clever heartfelt house, a photographic image and a perfumer inspired by said image. A little arch perhaps, but no more so than many other niche brands on the market inspired by random subjects.. blood, Argentine flora etc. I had tried the brand before and wandered away, intrigued but not quite in love. Then one day I fell hard for the dark shadows of Ombre Indigo and the rubbered sticky burn of the settling. I toyed with Flashback too; Olivier Cresp’s lovely oddly melancholy granny smith apple and rhubarb scent but then Clément Gavarry’s Panorama just dazzled me. The inspirational image was Miguel Sandinha’s sci-fi infused image of the iconic Sheats Goldstein house in LA, an angular masterpiece, set into lush cradled land but also jutting out bravely into the LA air over the tropical morass below. Designed by John Lautner and built between 1961 and 1963, it is one of the most elegant and distinctive pieces of 60s architecture in the world. The image shows the assembly of glass and concrete soaring into the sun-drenched air. The big shock of Panorama and was its incredible wasabi note, a genuine, fiery, green, scraped explosion of innovation I’ve never smelled before. Marshy, piquant and metallic clean. Mulchy galbanum, bamboo and fig reinforce the verdancy as Clément stirs things up by hurling a splash of neon violet across the mix and squeezing lemon juice over the top. Like the structure itself, the scent plays with notions of form, light, texture and unexpected tensions. Fir balsam and myrrh close down Panorama with great tenderness; a slight smokiness rises up, mingling with a pale vanilla and odd grey musks. This is how to do green. The technical achievement of Panorama is brilliant, the wasabi note, nature identical and seriously moreish. Céline and Clément had created a very clever and intelligent piece of olfaction that I think is the best Olfactive Studio creation to date.

©TheSilverFox 02 January 2016

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Foxy Loves of 2015 - Part I (The Triptych)

This year I have found and worn some beautiful work. I had a very unsettling period in the summer when my sense of smell just collapsed; I found myself unable to properly distinguish between notes, accords and materials I normally navigated with ease. This was the result of a serious viral infection a few years ago that resulted in hospitalisation and now a ghostly set of symptoms rises and falls like a malevolent tide, periodically attacking my olfactory system. Even when I recover, I am plagued by doubts; am I truly smelling cashmeran or cistus or just my memory of them? It has made me painfully conscious of how I interact with aroma, much more so then before and I have been researching the science of scent psychology and the effect on mood, migraine, learning, autism, dementia and sexual awareness. I now go for days with no scent on at all, whereas before I would never have dreamed of doing that. My skin and senses need days of neutrality and blankness in order for me to process aroma.  

I have written less than I would have liked I think, but what I have written is bold and heartfelt. Some of you have commented on the increased poeticism and eroticism in the writing. This is fine; I am always trying to do different things. I wrote five scent-related prose essays for Issue 4 of ODOU Magazine, the olfactory related publication designed and edited by the wonderful Liam Moore. I loved writing these, short obsessive pieces linking sex, death, desire and love to five particular fragrances including Bulgari Black, Vero Kern’s Onda, Iris Nazarena by Aedes de Venustas, Daphne by Comme des Garçons and Tabac Blond by Caron. I have more prose in Issue 5.. not saying too much except it will be haunted and obsessed with roses.  

I have always taken my time with my reviews and thoughts, those of you that follow my work are aware of that. I need to, the pieces are long, detailed and take a lot of time to research, plan and assemble. I also take a lot of the images myself. If don’t take them, I edit them ruthlessly through a complex series of apps, filters, lenses, effects and frames to achieve the precise look I desire. Editing is exhausting. I always overwrite and prune back; it’s the way I’ve always written. It’s indulgent and time consuming I know, but it allows me to play around with large amounts of info and then begin to carefully whittle it down through numerous drafts. I have a few trusted readers, only one technical reader, perfumer and friend Mr E; he has read my work from the beginning and I rely on his expert aroma knowledge to help me when I stumble or need reassurance that my instincts are not crazy. I still don’t do negative reviews and yet I’m still criticised by other bloggers for this. I don’t care. Everyone is different, all our tastes unique. I like things, you all like things. That’s all it really amounts to. I am not a perfumer or any kind of expert; I write on what I like, why waste time on anything else?

I buy as much as I can; this has been an important part of the Foxy blog since the beginning. I have written a few reviews off samples collections and some perfumers have been incredibly kind in sending me bottles of perfumes. But this is the exception not the rule. I prefer to indulge and buy, fill the Foxy study to the scented rafters.

2015 was the year of parfumo Italiano for me… so much beautiful stuff by fascinating vibrant sexy brands and innovative noses, brimming with passion and dancing difference. Also for me this was the year of Cécile Zarokian and Luca Maffei, two perfumers whose work seems to intensify in aptitude and aesthetic sensuality. Both perfumers have been very busy over the last couple of years with Cécile working with Masque Fragranze, MDCI and revitalising the new Jacques Fath collection; Luca meanwhile producing idiosyncratic work for Gabriella Cheiffo, Jul et Mad and Onyrico. I have also admired the work of Amélie Bourgeois and Ann-Sophie Behaghel at Flair, Jerome Epinette’s clarity of focussed vision, the warm-hearted beauty of Rodrigo Flores-Roux’s continuous journey of olfactory wonder, the technical mastery of Pierre Guillaume and the emergence of Marie Salamagne’s true sense of artistry via a series of stunning scents at Jo Malone London, Alaïa Paris, Atelier des Ors and others. Aliénor Massenet continues her magical symbiotic relationship with Clara Molloy at Memo Fragrance. Kedu in 2014 was sublime and this year’s African Leather, the latest in the Cuirs Nomades Collection is perhaps the best yet.

Liz Moores unleashed her porno-portrait of Salome at Papillon Perfumes, proving once and for all she is a true force to be reckoned in the world of swirling animalic sensuality. Across the sea in the US, John Pegg and Josh’s Lobb and Meyer released lovely, intimate work building on previous themes whilst demonstrating wit, charm and melancholy. Josh Lobb’s Kiste at Slumberhouse was a swooning dream of buzzy hay and whisky smoke and John Pegg’s Broken Theories almost made me weep with a movingly weird world of lonely aromatic chaos. Josh Meyer’s limited summer edition An Air of Despair was a gorgeous, silky cedarwood, dazzling white in tone.

Ys Uzac floored me with their pungent Dragon Tattoo, an inky sweat stained peach addiction whilst at the same time managing sadly to trash their original website, replacing it with something garish and contrived. I fell in love with Olfactive Studio through Clément Gavarry’s singular Panorama, a totally original scent, inspired by the Sheats Goldstein house, with an incredible wasabi note.

Pierre Guillaume as always produced exceptional work, a beautiful furred iris called Shermine for Huitième Art and a while new line called Collection Croisière, exploring aquatics, movement, water and voyage. Three of these, Mojito Chypré, Metal Hurlant and Paris Seychelles wowed me, all for very different reasons. There were mixed reactions to this line, but I think some people just didn’t really understand how the collection worked as a story and also what Pierre was trying to do in relation to his existing lines.   
So I have thought long and hard about my choices for the year; I am not normally a huge fan of picking one scent over another, lots of things have merit. But of course, despite admiring, accumulating and writing on a lot of scent I loved and worn some much more than others. I have a triptych of three perfumes that really impressed me and that I retuned to over and over again, worn for their sheer beauty, style, difference and scope. The rest of my selection are scents that dazzled and delighted me, some I’ve touched on above, others I’ve haven’t. I hope you enjoy reading about my choices as much I have enjoyed writing about and wearing them. I have purchased and acquired such special things and I’m still buying…

The Triptych

'Romanza' by Masque Milano 

Romanza – Masque Milano (Cristiano Canali)

I have recently posted on this magnificent poison, a mindfuck of brittle absinthe-soaked narcissus and narcotic jasmine, civet, amber and myrrh. I love the collection of operatic perfumes from Alessandro and Riccardo at Masque Milano; they are unafraid of sex and sensation, drama and the staging of manifold beauty. They have worked with an assembly of talented leftfield noses such as Cécile Zarokian, Delphine Thierry, Meo Fuscini, Julian Rasquinet and now Cristiano Canali on the sublimely decadent Romanza. I am quite quite besotted with this perverse scent inspired by The Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde’s disturbing story of hidden souls and dark lives lived in the full glare of a fascinated yet appalled society. Narcissus can smell like intoxicating abduction when calibrated with skill and boy is this perfectly calibrated; balanced with violet, jasmine sambac and a dank whoosh of bitter hyacinth. This is bravura scent making, I feel dirty and caressed as the perfume rises off skin. It is challenging scent. This is good, I don’t want ordinary, I want to fire imaginations, arouse senses. Romanza is exquisite swoon and disturbance incarnate.

'Nanban' by Arquiste

Nanban – Arquiste (Rodrigo Flores-Roux)

An astounding perfume from Carlos Huber and perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux at Arquiste. I adored Architects Club (signed off by Yann Vasnier), a dexterous and bittersweet kiss of 30s homage tinged with spiky citrus and the most divine smoky vanilla. What would come next? Oh my.. but a ship, redolent with weary voyage, salt and sun, cradling a precious cargo of spices, resins, coffee, cocoa, vanilla, everything transmuted by the alchemy of journey. Nanban was inspired by a political and cultural mission undertaken between 1613 and 1620 by a retainer of the Tokugawa Shogunate called Hasekura Tsunenaga. He travelled with an embassy of 180 companions to visit Pope Paul V in the Vatican, stopping off to discuss trade possibilities with the Royal Court in Spain. But most importantly for Carlos and the creation of Nanban, the delegation visited Mexico in Nueva España on its momentous voyage. Nanban translates as southern barbarian and originally referred to foreigners entering Japan from southern seas but became associated with a particular 16th and 17th style of Japanese art where European elements of style, dress and perspective briefly appeared. These elements were woven into a powerful and evocative scent by Flores-Roux who really knows his way around these kinds of brooding, emotive materials. It is the holding of the notes, the marine-tinged embrace of saffron and tea versus the brooding cade, frankincense and myrrh. Nanban is a glowing, demanding thing, an addiction. Each time I wear it I imagine that dense and extraordinary voyage and that hold packed tight with boxes, chests, and crates redolent with history.

'Cio Cio San' by Parfums MDCI

Cio Cio San – Parfums MDCI (Cécile Zarokian)

I feel sometimes that Claude Marchal’s elegant Parfums MDCI is a hugely underrated collection of fragrances. I have worn and loved so many of these singular scents including the silken, sinful glow of Péché Cardinal by Amandine Marie, Bertrand Duchaufour’s beautiful Chypré Palatin and Stephanie Bakouche’s masterly Invasion Barbare, one of the best masculines of the last 25 years. Cio Cio San is Cécile Zarokian’s second scent for MDCI (she has just added a third, Les Indes Galantes to their collection..) and as the name implies it takes its inspiration from the tragic, love-hurt geisha at the heart of Madam Butterfly, Puccini’s drama of honour, deluded love, innocence and betrayal. The keynote to Cio Cio San is a mouth-watering sakura pink lychee note, embedded amid a gorgeous symphony of peony, ginger and ginger. This is gleefully enhanced and tempered with shots of glittering yuzu and a really really delicately applied lime note at the top of the scent. The focus with Madame Butterfly is usually the shocking death of Butterfly by her own hand with her father’s engraved ceremonial dagger. Not so here. Cécile has chosen if anything a more poignant part of the story when Butterfly learns that after so many years her beloved Pinkerton has returned. She fills her house with blossom and her heart with joy. Little does she know, Pinkerton has returned with an American wife and the intention of adopting Cio Cio San’s baby. This scene is unbearably sad, the intense beauty of Butterfly and her floral strewn bower contrasting so starkly with the raw emotions on offer. The perfume is at once intensely giddy, sweet and joyful but is also a perfume of darkening shade as it settles. So many layers of contrasts and hooks of desire.  A scent of love and anguish, something I will wear forever.

©TheSilverFox 31 December 2015