I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Silvered Choice: A Reflection & Harvest of 2014 – Part II


‘It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important’.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – The Little Prince

I was obsessed with roses in 2014. I always have a place in my foxy heart for rose fragrances to be fair; they thrill me, the best of them causing senses and heart to swell. There is something primal and intensely emotional about the differing odours of rose, be they peppered, jammy, verdant, mulchy, chocolately, boozy, berried, tea-like, ghostly, rubbered and darkly petrolic. 

Rozy Voile d’Extrait – Vero.Profumo

Vero Kern, the sorceress of Vero Profumo has been one of my most treasured perfumers for a while now, ever since I fell under the spell of her profoundly erotic Onda, a scent like none other. She makes scent that reminds us why we have skin. We are her canvases. In 2014 she unleashed a duo of fragrances with the same name Rozy, one an eau de parfum, the other her own singular voile d’extrait formulation, both inspired by the iconic Italian actress and force of nature Anna Magnani. Rozy EDP was gorgeous, a fruity voluptuous crash of rose intensity. Vero’s dirty trademark passion fruit musk effect and a drip of honeyed peachiness make Rozy EDP a fleshy close wear. For me it was all about the Rozy Voile d’Extrait. I was quite shocked at how different it was, yes the delicious Rozy head-turning expansive rose was still beautifully present, but this time the tone was exquisitely weird. The rose note smelled like hot plastic blooms, red like blood. Wearing it is an oddly claustrophobic experience, the notes and expanding petals press in on the senses. The addition of blackcurrant adds a clever rather erotic underpinning to the rose, layering an acidic earthiness reverse to the rose’s lavish honeyed drama. The key to a successful rose perfume to reveal secrets, unfurl a little majesty and yet still gold something back. Vero always retains something. There is a hidden oddity and buried enigma in all of her fragrances, It haunts them and is what makes her so valuable.

Rose Cut – Parfums Ann Gérard

Another very different rose scent came from the chic Parisian pairing of jeweller Ann Gerard and master perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. Rose Cut is the first scent from Ann since the masterly triptych of fragrances Bertrand created for her in 2012 – Perle de Mouse, Ciel D’Opale and perhaps one of the best iris scents ever, Cuir de Nacre. It was an intriguing wait to see what or even if Ann would do another scent. The trio were near perfect. Each one was exquisite, reflecting Ann’s trademark use of reflective surfaces and materials such as nacre and opals and her deeply personal interpretation of the nature of skin and the wearing of metal and stone on flesh. A move into olfactive lustre was inevitable. Rose Cut, as it sounds is a glittering aromatic jewel for the skin. I can’t help but imagine it as a bloody pirate ruby, nestled in shadowed décolleté, facets winking provocatively. It is the work again of master perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour and he has returned to his lovely use of boozy rum to add a swaying sense of danger to his rose and peony combo. The peony is gorgeous halo to the rose, light glittering off the rose’s carefully held thorns and velveteen petals. Blackcurrant bud, benzoin and a rather mucky vanilla note make this rose more Grimm than Barbie, a bloom that might draw shocking blood and a smile from a crimson mouth.   

Nevermore – Frapin et Cie

Creative Director David Frossard at Frapin launched a weird gothic stained rose in September called Nevermore, inspired by The Raven, Poe’s melancholy poem of tightly wrought grief, paranoia and dread. Quite different in style from the cognac house’s usual output of boozy, woozy woody fragrances, Nevermore was an arresting essay in oddness and the unexpected. There is a ritual of red roses and cognac placed reverentially on Poe’s grave on the anniversary of his death and this sparked an idea for Frapin and perfumer Anne Sophie Behaghel. I like the regular meaty style of Frapin and the daring weight to their dense formulations. 1697 and Speakeasy are incredible fragrances. Nevermore is the sensuous clutch of two roses (Centifolia and Damask) and their unsettling float over a musty cellar-damp base of woods and wet musks. The real star of the scent is the exceedingly blatant dose of Florazone in the top of the scent that suggests the insidious chlorophyll creep of night garden into the room of a grief-torn man. Nevermore had mixed reviews, but I loved it, it smelled amazing on skin, a mix of old books, decaying petal and bright grassy air. Lovely stuff from Frapin and very different.

 Sådanne - Slumberhouse

Taking of different… good lord.. Sådanne by Slumberhouse. Oh Josh Lobb, I love your work, you never fail to stun me, I read about your latest. I crave it, have to have it, buy it, soak it up, adore it. You’re a crazy scented motherfucker with ideas burning like watchfires in the inspirational spaces of your headworld. Norne just obsessed me, I wear it like a talisman, a spell to ward off the whole world, it smells of woven threatening nature. Nothing else will ever smell like it and I am so glad I have it muttering and lambent in the darkness of my Foxy study. After the (limited..)splashed crimson cranberry madness of Zahd, I wondered what would come next from Josh’s hermetic world. Sådanne is magnificent, a howl of liqueur-drenched strawberries, simmering rose and an aftertaste of animalism that still keeps shocking me. According to Scent & Chemistry who analysed it, they say it contains the highest levels of beta-damascones in a scent in years. ∫Damascones exude creamy honeyed plummy tones in a rose composition. In Sådanne the overload gives the incredible sensation of a sticky, tobacco-tinted hibiscus syrup. This is dizzying scent to wear, persistent and neon-sexy, a ramped up pole-dancing Britney-esque trash aesthetic blended magnificently with a dark Borgia poisonous twist that thrills the paws off me. I love that Josh is controlled enough to veer over the edge but also sensual enough to acknowledge as we careen into the abyss we need to smell fucking gorgeous.

Tobacco Rose – Papillon Perfumery

Liz Moores has been gilded with well-earned praise in many end of year round ups for her debut trio of scents Anubis, Angelique and Tobacco Rose. Every piece of hyperbole, joy, love and wonder penned on her work is justified. They are remarkable works from an incredibly kind and very modest woman who is genuinely gobsmacked by the enormous wave of critical acclaim what has engulfed her in 2014. A devoted and tough talking circle of friends and family keeps her grounded at her base in the New Forest in England. Kids, hubby, horses, cats, snakes, nature and a voracious love of the good (and occasionally wicked…) things in life have made a deeply personal, beautiful and sensual woman into a quite exceptional perfumer. It almost seems unfair that someone’s debut collection is this damn good. But when that someone is as delicious and kind as Liz, you want the world to buy her sexy juice. I got to know her through twitter actually, she’s great (and generous) on social media. I got some samples and BAM. Another stunning rose. It is one of my all time favourites actually, I wear it a LOT. I get so many comments on the subversive porniness of it; it’s not a pretty rose. It’s a bloom for sex and seduction, for leaning into and sharing, flirting, pulling, tempting. It’s a dirty bitch of a rose. I know Liz struggled endlessly with the mods of these and had to walk away time and time again, cursing the volatility and complexity of the materials. But my darling, it was worth it, I know it, you know it and the people all over the world who have indulged in it, sensing their skin flicker with smoky jammy desire know it too.    

Exquise Gourmandise

‘All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

Charles M Schultz 

Four wonderfully varied niche gourmands found their way into my collection in 2014, all unique, all a little strange, but all skin-lickingly lovely. Gourmands have evolved into a schizophrenic entourage of aromas, with some sensually created interpretations of florals and orientals with milk, chocolate, caramel, coffee, coconut, dulce de leche, honey and chai. On the flip side there are shrieking nasty concoctions that are always kandy with a ‘K’. Everything has its place, but certain niche houses have realised the inherent comfort and potential experimentation to be had with the variety of foodie notes. Not for everyone, but to be dismissed to quickly either, I am a huge vanilla fan, L’Artisan Parfumer’s now sadly discontinued Vanille Absolument has been my signature scent for years (I have cellar stock….) and I always look out for new intriguing permutations of the note (HELLO Architects Club!!!).

Salt Caramel – Shay & Blue

Shay & Blue… how much do I love thee? Enough to have all of their fragrances bar the Sicilian Limes. I just can’t handle limes, just too bathroomy for me. The dapper and charming Dom de Vetta is the Creative Director of Shay & Blue and together with young perfumer Julie Massé (and style director/muse Juila Sarr-Jamois) launched a truly delightful and accessible house with utterly delicious fragrances that have been a genuine joy to discover. Dom’s background at Chanel and Jo Malone have been put to beautiful and precise use, allowing us to access a range of immaculately conceived scents in a range of styles with just enough difference to pique curiosity and jaded olfactory senses. The Vermeeresque style of the London store, the rich blue signature livery and a lively use of social media have made Shay & Blue a brand to really follow and wear. Each new launch has buzz, something exciting about it. This is pretty hard to pull off; their fan base is passionate and genuine. I love their weird and milky Almond & Cucumber, Amber Rose has a lush dulce de leche heart, the Blood Orange is scorched with fire and leather dipped. Their truffly coffee tinted Oud Alif was one of the sexiest ouds in years, so wearable and FUN. But for me, it was Salt Caramel that really did it. I loved this enormous musky OTT gourmand, inspired by the Charbonnel et Walker Sea Salt Caramel Truffles, a shockingly addictive bonbon one should never leave anywhere near me or I will clear out the box, leaving dusted little crinkle cases behind. Julie Massé used vanilla, sandalwood and tonka to play succulently against the salted caramel marriage. In patisserie and food preparation, salt counteracts the any potential bitterness of caramel allowing a smooth aurous continuity. There is a tremendous lightness to the composition, a sense of pinkified aeration that makes Salt Caramel a joy to wear in ridiculously liberal amounts or over other fragrances, especially roses. Skin smells lacquered and lickable. This is fun scent with a serious molten allure. Thank you Dom & Julie. I look forward to your 2015 olfactory adventures.

El Born – Carner Barcelona

Carner Barcelona is a gorgeous and I think rather under-rated niche house run by Creative Director Sara Carner. The brand has steadily grown in reputation since its foundation in 2009, but I feel that Sara’s discreet and handsomely mounted scents have not really been acknowledged or interpreted sufficiently enough to allow the grace and difference of the scents to shine. I first came across them in Bloom Perfumery in London; the team were just unpacking them, they were freshly arrived stock. I loved the unpretentious, sombre packaging, clean line and heavy wooden tops. Great names too - Rima XI, Tardes, Cuirs, D600 – enigmatic and atmospheric. Sara’s family history is one of leather-makers, hence the lovely Cuirs and her obsessive mapping of Barcelona, while to some might seem restrictive, is in fact a deeply personal and lovely reflection of tastes, mores, moods and ambiance. I have liked all of the scents so have been trying to find time to write something. Then last year Sara launched El Born and I was seriously smitten. It is by far my favourite Carner scent and I’m quite besotted with its swooning pitch-perfect gourmand solicitude. I love the singularity of Rima XI, an intensely made aromatic with a saffron stained-jasmine surrounded by a veritable larder of resins, balms, spices, woods and vanillic musks. Inspired by the 11th Rima or Rhyme by 19th century Spanish poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer.

"I am a delusion, an impossible,
a vain phantom of mist and light;
I am unbodied, I am impalpable;
I cannot love you."
"Oh come, come you...!"

Sara returned from a fashion career in New York to pursue her olfactive dream in her home city of Barcelona, using the sights, sounds, history, energy and style of the city as a mirror to spark her fertile processes. El Born is the best to date I think, although Cuirs has a enormously powerful honeyed leather note oozing through it which I find hard to resist. And allied as it is to the memory of Sara’s leather making forefathers makes it even more resonant to wear as second skin. El Born is the part of the lower section of La Ribera (The Shore), an area of Barcelona where many of city’s renowned medieval architecture is located. Nowadays it is the destination for chic slow shopping, casual café culture and bijou unique art experiences. The place has buzz and laid back charm amid the winding streets and balcony shadows, the air sweet with the drifting aromas from overlapping pastelerias. The scent itself is so beautiful, opening on a huge, caramelised rooty licquorice effect that must be the meld of jasmine, anisic angelic and honey in the top. The fig (normally a nemesis note for me…) and heliotrope embellish the established gourmand character with nuances of almond and smoky black cherry. There is no cocoa listed in the notes, but a ghost of it is dusted through the composition like summer shade in the later stages of the scent. The balsamic vanilla and milky woods give El Born an impression of sugar-laced churros dunked in hot thick chocolate calienete.. The later stages of El Born are haunted by echoes of pipe tobacco, sweet and damp, rolled between hot fingers. Tobacco impregnated with kirsch and bitter almond. I catch sudden pieces of it like smoke on the wind. A delightful addition to the Carner Barcelona line and proves that Sara is a gifted and inspirational creative director.

Ragù – Gabriella Chieffo

Now, Ragù by Gabriella Chieffo was a different kind of gourmand experience altogether, a savoury exploration of memory, family and home. Inspired by the long simmering of Italian ragu sauces over languid Sundays of happy voices, gossip and family legend. Ragù is part of Collection 14, a quartet that truly surprised me in 2014. It is rare to be genuinely startled by scent when you try as much juice as I do. But Gabriella’s personal and carefully formed olfaction hooked me in from the start. The scents are embodied by Gabriella herself in a series of Cindy Sherman-esque poses, indicating the moods and motifs of her perfumes. The effect is unsettling but effective, demonstrating Gabriella’s emotional commitment to the formulae. This approach could have gone horribly awry, coming across as arch and egotistical, however, the overall eccentricity and bravura quality of Lye, Hystera, Camaheu and Ragù is so good it outweighs any doubts on might have had. Exploring personal and therefore universal issues such as childbirth, adolescence, death, remembrance, identity, Gabriella ghosts them into a set of odd olfaction, using a particularly ashen, snowy palette of aromas. Ragù is my favourite though, the capture of slow, bubbling tomatoes, sugars breaking down with mentholic oregano, basil and black pepper to a sensual mix of musks, woods and herbaceous haze. The blend of elemi, cloves, saffron and cardamom over a base of cashmeran is the reality of Ragù, but the skill of the recipe is the olfactory holography of that hypnotic Sunday ambience, the diffusive slow-cooked fumes that radiate in mind and home.

 Architect’s Club - Arquiste

I am including Architect’s Club by Arquiste in my Exquise Gourmandise section simply because it’s sensational and Yann Vasnier’s delicious rendering of vanilla was one of my favourites of the year. I am still working my through a major piece on Arquiste for my Foxy blog as Architect’s Club prompted a re-visit to the line and a complex re-evaluation of fragrances I had previously struggled with a little bit. This time round, no struggle, just a letting go and luxuriating in the stylish arms of a very handsomely appointed and subversively sensual collection of perfumes. The inspiration for Architect’s Club is a Deco one, a meeting of line and form giddily interrupted by the irresistible insouciance of Mayfair’s Brideshead cocktail culture. Vasnier knows his way around a party or two and his sling-referenced juniper note is brittle and cool, tempered by a brilliant use of cadmium-lemon intensity and a persuasive anisic angelica note which threads top down to the woods, a shimmer of amber and that gorgeous, swirling, sexy vanilla. Oooooooohhh the vanilla is so damn fine, fresh and modern, a touch of crème anglaise with a whiff of unwrapped electrical goods.

Creative Director Carlos Huber trained in the historical preservation of architecture, literally stabilising the past, conserving history and memory whilst using the best available modern techniques to hand. This adaptation and melding is necessary to safeguard structural heritage. Working with Yann and Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Carlos has created a portfolio of masterly detailed perfumes, each one inspired by precise moments in time and history. They are in some ways like olfactive blueprints, or maps allowing us to see and inhale pieces of imagined time. Architect’s Club has been a revelation for me, one I am grateful for. I have always admired this beautiful house from day one of its inception. Everything about it works for me, the skill, presentation, style, inspirations and joie de vivre of Mr Huber. But for ages I struggled with the juice on skin. Anima Dulcis, the guys’ amazingly cloistered chilli-kissed cocoa gourmand was the one that grabbed and kept me attached to the brand, the others just fluttered around me like blurred moths in poor light. Architect’s Club was the light was burned the dust from the room and oddly seemed to throw all the others into focus. I’m not sure why, but when I went back and spent an evening sampling the line again, notes and theme just fell into place. Vasnier’s deco vanillic rush is sheer joy to wear, everything about it is capricious and warm. This is a scent I will treasure.

So Part II is done. Part III is coming. Foxy last musings on 2014.

©The Silver Fox

11 January 2014

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Silvered Choice: A Reflection & Harvest of 2014 – Part I

‘I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

From ‘The Thought-Fox’ by Ted Hughes

I don’t normally do lists. Even on a day-to-day personal level. They corral and panic me. I realise rationally they assist in the organising of the mind, but I’ve never been one for rules and increasingly my mind has a mind of its own. Age has made me more wary of lists than ever.

I get asked a lot as an olfactive writer about my favourites and not so favourite fragrances. I have always been quite strict with myself about publicly disliking things – I try where I can, not to do it. But sometimes I am obliged to and it hurts. Whatever I may think in private, I prefer to review only on the perfumes I like and admire and usually buy. If I like it the scent enough to buy it, I hope you will too. There are enough vitriolic perfume bloggers out there willing to slash and burn work; I don’t want to do that. At the end of the day, all perfume is subjective and someone somewhere has made it and someone else will wear it. I’m not entirely sure I have the right to be that judgemental.

Of course I come across so much scented stuff I don’t like and wouldn’t wear, but other people will and do. My tastes are reasonably eclectic, I’m no snob, Gucci, Gorilla and Balenciaga sit alongside Mona di Orio, Technique Indiscrète and Oriza L. Legrand. It’s all about how you feel and what you want from life and scent.

2014 has been rich and sensual with a wonderfully diverse and intriguing raft of fragrant launches. I have been writing extensively and carefully as usual for my own Silver Fox blog and posting on my Foxy Facebook page but was also introduced in early 2014 by a mutual friend to Michelyn Camen, Editor in Chief at Cafleurebon and she has been incredibly supportive, inviting me to write regularly for the site and providing me with an intriguing and eclectic array of international perfumes to write on. The schedule is demanding but I enjoy the tightness of the writing challenge and diverse collection of fragrances I have had an opportunity to write about. The community of writers is quite special and the feedback and variety of comments I get on my writing from CFB readers is like nothing else. Michelyn does not censor or dictate, we share an obsessive passion for beautiful scent. She is classic to my indie. She has impeccable taste and ferocious drive. 

I am particularly proud of a piece I wrote for the dapper and handsome Helder Suffenplan at Scentury called Les Feux d'AutomneI had wanted to write something for his lovely site for ages, it is one of my go-to blogs for unusual perfumed reading. He gallantly gave me carte blanche on content and has always been very supportive and kind about my foxy writing over the years. So I chose to describe my beloved dark city of Edinburgh and the scents I wear in the autumn streets to match the city’s finest, most haunted season.

My piece for Liam Moore’s wonderfully evolving ODOU magazine (Issue 3, The Interview Edition), The Consolation of Dependency, was one of the best things I have written in a while, an essay ostensibly reviewing Junky by Anais Biguine’s Jardins d’Ecrivains, a unsettling scent inspired by William Burroughs’s cult biographical book. But I also wanted to explore deeper preoccupations with addiction, damage and obsession on a personal level and the odd way many perfume lovers interact with scent. It was not an easy write for me, but I needed to look some demons in the milky unblinking eye.    

Writing is an inherently lonely business, reflective and selfish, reliant mostly on one’s own wavering and beleaguered views. I bounce off my friend and muse Mr E, someone who understands the beauty and majesty of scent but is also unafraid to confront the bullshit of obfuscation, reformulation and PR gloss that continues to be thrown over so much of today’s perfume launches.  I thought I might get bored of writing on scent, but the sensuality and beauty aroused by some of the work I encounter continues to intrigue and astound me.

One of the things I love most about writing on niche and artisan perfumery is the relationship I have made with brands, creative directors, perfumers and other writers. Many of these wonderful and supportive people I can now call friends and this matters to me more than I really express.

So, I am going to pull together some thoughts on my favourites from 2014, from mainstream, niche and indie houses. I did find one or two really special things this year that burned like supernovas and re-discovered some old favourites again that I had to gather like precious blooms and hide away in my oh so quiet scented foxy study. I hope you like.

Part I is all about the loveliness in the so-called mainstream market. Interestingly Estée Lauder bought up Linda Rodin, Frédéric Malle and Le Labo this year, not so silently acknowledging the growing influence and trend-setting power of certain key niche luxury houses. 

In this list are are two of my favourite re-launches of the year. Both French, one a return of a modern classic, the other an intricately reconstructed vintage scent from a stunning antique archive.

I do love mainstream scents, I don’t stray too far from the brightly lit counters and department store halls. Anyone who does is a fool and a snob. You miss so much good stuff, occasional magic, trends being set and the death throes of old giants. I still adore the work of Dior, the Chanel exclusives still wield delicious influence and brands like Parfums Mugler, Chloe, Balenciaga, Cartier and Hermes are creating shimmering olfaction that allow many people a reasonably priced access point into luxurious and intriguing launches.

This year I loved the glowing restraint of Bottega Veneta’s Knot, signed off by the subtle hand of Daniela Roche Andrier. Her diaphanous, iris-based work at Prada, applied here to orange blossom over a white rose and lavender heart was stunning. The rose seemed to murmur vows of celibacy as it sank, satiated into a warm embrace of tonka and trailing musks. The more I wore it the more I noticed the rather fuzzy opaque laundry aroma of just open tumble dryers in the gaps between the floral notes and Andrier’s use of ripe clementine and Italian citrus elements. This oh-so subtle collision of warm machine and bright flooded blossom is beautifully achieved and demonstrates how incredibly rich and diverse so-called high street scent can be in the talented technical hands of perfumers like Andrier. Oh and the flacon is gorgeous too, the name referring of course to the iconic bag and clutch fastening… 

Then there was My Burberry. This was a big shock. I have never really paid much attention to Burberry’s schlocky duty free fodder fragrances. I just can’t get my head around a brand with so much money to invest in luxury scent and great noses and yet their output is resolutely generic and unadventurous. The solution. Get Francis Kurkdjian on board - his recent work for Carven and Elie Saab was divine…. Shoot a campaign with Testino, Moss, Delevigne and use the iconic Burberry trench as inspiration for a gorgeous off-white floral centred on rain-soaked sweet peas, freesia and an imagined quince effect. This is perfume that oozes joy and playfulness, a head thrown back in rain kinda insouciance. Kurkdjian really knows his way around white flowers, moulding them into diaphanous and often unexpected shapes to catch the senses unaware. His delicious offbeat work for big name brands IMHO is far better than his own somewhat static line. My Burberry shimmers with dewy dreamy rose as it settles on warm skin, so easy to wear but very forthright and stylish, with echoes of vintage Chanel and Lancôme thrown in or good measure. Another fabulous flacon too, oversize faux horn button lid and a piece of Castleford gabardine tied at the neck of the bottle. A modern classic.  

I loved the scented Balenciaga launches under the artistic directorship of Nicholas Ghesquière. Paris, Paris Essence and the wonderfully curious Florabotanica all sit in my collection and I wear them regularly. B Balenciaga was the first new fragrance launch for Balenciaga under the tenure of American designer Alexander Wang. B Balenciaga is a strike out in a more modern, brutalist way as much as high street perfumery can. The violet note of Paris and Paris Essence echoes through this too, but in much greener, snapped vegetal way. Domitille Bertier of IFF has used an edamame pea effect in the top that stays leafy and delicately alien as the notes settle down into the more traditional musky, cashmeran base. A breath of orris blows through the later stages, bringing soft dust and a sigh of glassy light. I like the odd growl of ambrette in the base; just enough to avoid the usual dull fade-off familiar to so many mainstream florals. A risky and perhaps chilly launch for a big name house to be honest, but one of structured charm and difference. Another lovely bottle too, frosted and odd in the hand, inspired by the marble floor in the flagship Balenciaga showroom at 10 Avenue George V in Paris.

It’s no secret to friends and followers alike how much I love Mugler and the inventive way they flanker their touchstone quartet of Angel, Alien, Womanity and A*Men. Each year sees innovative twists and unctuous interpretations of the original formulations, allowing devotees the indulgent illusion of novelty while not straying too far from the classic structures. Using leather, liqueur, gustatory enhancements and cask notes, Parfums Mugler have sought to enhance re-define the boundaries of flankering within an established big name house. This summer saw the release of the carnivalesque Angel Eau Sucrée, signed off by Dorothée Piot, author of Chambre Noire for Olfactive Studio and Amouge Memoir Woman. This playful sorbet portrait of the original mega gourmand smells of frosted red berries, rolled in shattered caramel dusted meringue. There’s a lovely neon macaroon ice cream thing going on that I just adore. It’s as camp as a unicorn’s coming out party with Abba t-shirts and glow-sticks. It’s sometime hard to explain a love of Mugler fragrances; so many people hate them. I’ve given up trying; I’ve decided it’s a twisted addiction. Each to their own, my skin fucking loves the power of maltol and that’s all that matters.

Valentino Uomo by Valentino was one of the only mainstream masculine launches I liked this year. Accompanied by an elegantly shot campaign starring one of my favourite French actors Louis Garrell, star of Ma Mère, Les Chansons d’Amours and The Dreamers. Created by Olivier Polge of Dior Homme fame, I had high(ish) hopes from this and while it didn’t quite reach the same rarefied heights as DH’s haunting dusty androgyny, Valentino Uomo is still beautifully made juice. Essentially a discreet coffee-laced gourmand with woods and amber, it is set apart by Polge’s use of a giuanduja (hazelnut/cocoa) effect in the mix, this is elegantly done, warm and mellow without any of the usual aromachemical sleaziness you often get in men’s sweeter scented offerings. I like the overall smoothness of the scent, the hint of supple leather, some glittering bergamot and weird plasticised cedar. Lovely heavy cut-glass bottle, echoing jewel-cut whisky tumblers, the juice is tinted a pale shimmering golden tea tone, adding to the overall dram in a glass effect. I found the longevity very good although others disagreed. A refined and graceful scent that stood out like blood on snow in the generic saturation of today’s sweaty, dull and interchangeable male scent launches.

I had two favourite re-launches in 2014; one was Jour de Fête, an adorable, comforting essay in amandine brilliance by Olivia Giacobetti originally released by L’Artisan Parfumeur in 1993. This new version smells very similar, perhaps a little sweeter and less milky in the drydown, but still perhaps the most pellucid and gauzy rendering of almonds in the business. I was thrilled to bits it came back. The mix of wedding, patisserie and cyanide fascinates me and Giacobetti’s blending of these complexities with wheat and powdered iris is beguiling and soothing. I like the fragility and soft glow of this moreish scent. Olivia Giacobetti’s work (Hotel Costes, Dzing!, Safran Troublant, Sexy Angélique) has a certain transparent sensibility that makes them deeply alluring to wear. Hush is vastly underrated as an olfactory attribute, but it is one I am becoming more inclined towards. This surreptitious scent of marzipan, frangipane, almond milk, patisserie and apple seed is a welcome re-launch from a troubled house. The more I wear it, the more I recognise genius in these soft, watchful L’Artisan scents like Jour de Fête, Bois Farine, Safran Troublant and La Haie Fleurie de Hameau. I hope they stay and soothe for a while.  

My other fave 2014 re-launch was a historic reconstruction, Violettes de Czar, by Oriza L. Legrand, the legendary heritage French house, resuscitated recently by Franck Belaiche and Hugo Lambert. This exquisite house, dating back to 1720, has been tenderly and very successfully revived using archive formulae, original extraits, love and dedication. The original scent was made for the Russian Imperial court in the 1860s and the formula does have a sensual aloofness to it, a haughty tone of high-necked fur and disdain. The violet note is hugely metallic and sweeps across the senses like moody weather. But there is more to it than just the powdered silver of violet. A touch of Russian leather, smoky musks and the most delightful fade of silky heliotropin powder were a fabulous extra as the woods and flowers dissipated. A decadent treat to wear and something that genuinely delighted me.

A late surprise and another riff on violet was Simply Jil Sander by Christophe Raynaud. I saw this pop up on the informative Scent and Chemistry Facebook page and got hooked in by the reference to the echo of vintage Fahrenheit. This will be Jil’s swan song (yes I know she’s bowed out before…) as she finally retires from the fashion house she set up in the late seventies. I have worn and loved a number of her peculiar scents over the years, hard to find and oddly obsessive. Sun and Jil Sander No 4 were my favourites, I went through bottles and bottles of Sun. Simply is simply a wonderful echo of Jean-Louis Sieuzac’s exalted Fahrenheit from 1988 a scent that permeated every sullen fibre and flicked fringe of my pop-drenched 80s’ teenage years. The version kicking about now is a piss poor shadow of the towering violet drenched in a rumoured 14% of MHC (methyl heptyne carboxylate) and the multiple flankers have been occasionally interesting but flicker dully in the fiery glow of the original. But this skilfully assembled scent from Jil Sander offers up a damn fine facsimile of that neutered classic. A little more metallic and brassy in the heart perhaps, but the contemporary violet is veiled in a rather austere leather effect that nonetheless manages to allow an elegant smooth vanillic trace to emerge in the final, mauve moments of drydown. Buy it if you can, it is a bizarre and fascinating perfume.

Part II, coming soon will be musings on my favourite niche and indie scents and the themes that embroidered them throughout the year.

31 December 2014