It is that time of year again when the scented industries go into overdrive trying to attract our attention with opulent advertising, special offers, teetering piles of coffret sets and a deep seated sense of insecurity about how their perfumes are performing. It is party season, both work and private, we dose our skins, venture out and bloom in the night. The streets and bars are giddy with the scent of a hundred mingled accords. We are gifted perfume and buy it too, hoping it will be loved and perhaps we will be desired in return.
I’m posting this later than I intended, but I’ve been so busy and so very tired. It’s an exhilarating and draining time of the year. Greed and kindness battle for supremacy and the streets glitter like so many Vegas strip shows.
Everyone always says perfume is such a personal thing to buy for someone…. But surely this is the point? I can’t think of a better gift to receive than a flacon of heavenly scented juice that someone has taken time to consider and imagine on my skin. Perfumery should be n inherently intimate form of gifting. This is the problem of course, it can be a slapdash and brutal choice with last minute snap decisions resulting in poor choices and plastered-on smiles across the faces of recipients.
I have been drawing up my wish list for Scented Santa. Fragrances I haven’t got around to buying yet, and perfumes that have roamed the crowded rooms of my olfactory brain this year. I cannot have everything, that would be shameless, but Santa baby…. Hear my scented plea….
Volutes eau de parfum by Diptyque
I REALLY want this. I have never been a particularly big Diptyque fan, although Eau Lente makes me flicker and like no other incarnation of opoponax, the balsamic flammable resin burned by Alexander the Great to thank the gods as he conquered and fucked his way across the ancient world. It is thick and incantatory, reeking of sweet waxen altars and exhortations to ancient skies.
But as a rule the buttoned-up safety of Diptyque formulae leave me distinctly chilly. They often have the feel of empty rooms, with only traces left behind. (I also have a vast hatred of L’Ombre dans L’Eau, its invasive blackcurrant note is pissy and bitter on the skin, mixed with the rose it makes me sick and dizzy…. A personal connection to a job I loathed). The new smoky wonder that is Volutes is ravishing though, a portrait of languid smoke tendrils from La Khedive cigarettes curling into the air. Inspired by a memory of one of the Diptyque founders Yves Coueslant, crossing by boat from Marseilles to Saigon. The image of women leaning on the rails of the boat, smoking these aromatic cigarettes is a potent one and captured with monochromatic nostalgia and delicacy.
The initial sharpness, like the crack of a flame settles quickly and a soft and embracing tobacco/iris accord rises and swirls about the skin with great poignancy. There is a gentle tonka/vanilla note in the background like the first glimpse of sun on a rainy day. If you imagine the women wearing classic French 30s style fragrance, voluminous Guerlains, peppery leathered Carons as they languidly exhale their smoke into the hazy heated air. This mix of musks, elegance, smoke and vanillic tobacco is softly rendered in a modern whispered way. I keep sampling it and slowly the obsession builds. My skin adores it.
Siwa by Memo
A re-visit next, a sudden craving. You all know by now if you follow me how much I love my sleepy, nuzzly gourmands: Lann-Ael by Lostmarc’h, Dior’s Hypnotic Poison, Chocolat Amere by Il Profumo, and Vanille Absolument by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
Siwa by Memo, Clara Molloy’s luminous little brand is a gorgeous scent, instantly comforting and recognisable and yet somehow mysterious and incantatory at the same time. It is a soft sheer veil of perfume, a dusting of notes that redefines the skin.
Memo is Clara and John Molloy, he is Irish, she is a peripatetic traveler, with French roots. They met on a ski lift in 2005 and set out on a creative olfactory journey with perfumer Aliénor Massenet, one of the more instinctive and interesting noses at work in perfumery today. Her work is marked with robust attention to emotion and clarity of ingredients. She created the delicious Jasmin for Armani Privé, the best of the line.
The tagline for the Memo is:
Fragrance is a souvenir
Memo is its memory
Memo approach each scent like a journey that transports you, travelling with you from start to finish. I was drawn initially to Siwa because of its cereal note. I was coming down from my rush of love from Lann-Ael and craving more Cheerios/Golden Nuggets type effects.
I was down in London and doing the scented rounds with a colleague. We were on the top floor of Harvey Nichols and came across the Memo and Comptoir Sud Pacifique fragrances; both brands were on the point of withdrawing from the store. I was buying some half-price Amour Cacao and Matin Calin from CSP when the young guy working at Memo wandered over to chat. I told him I had bought some Lalibela the week before in Edinburgh, the weird hypnotic rose perfume inspired by a city of pilgrimage in Ethiopia. He went back to his counter and then returned, presenting me with a bottle of Siwa as a gift. I was very taken aback and very touched. He said they were leaving HN and asked me simply to ‘love the scent’. And I did.
It is gorgeous. The softest touch of aldehydes ushers in a delicate blend of narcissus absolute, cloudy whiskey and popcorn on a floating cloud of musks and vanilla. There is a lovely puff of cinnamon across the notes that really catches the heart. It smells so luxurious and quietly indulgent as it dries down, a lick of dulche de leche and powdered cereals crushed by a ceramic spoon. I sniffed the ghost of this from the empty bottle the other day and my body ached. So on the list it goes.