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…
|'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 – 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