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 - 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 – 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 – 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