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

Friday 27 July 2012

Cravings I - July 2012

I want to do something a little different for this piece. I’ve been thinking about new releases and fragrances I really want to be living in and breathing off my skin.  Obviously the market is continually washed through with new releases from both high street and niche and also a relatively new and somewhat blurred area of designer boutique fragrances, concept scents, vanity projects and the increasing number of high cost ‘art’ perfume experiments. Recent examples include the Steidl/Lagerfeld/Schoen/Wallpaper* collaboration: Paper Passion, the Blood Concept fragrances by Giovanni Castelli and Antonio Zuddas and the rather haunting Olfactive Studio fragrances inspired by the alchemy between nose and the eye, perfumery and photography. So the perfume world is much more intense and complex now than it ever has been, the simplicity of merely scenting oneself is now only a part of the experience, perfumery is reaching inside to touch our souls, stimulate our hearts, our minds and perhaps, to scent the length and breadth of our lives.

But shadowing this is a creeping zombification of scent, where everything has become tainted with cloning, the mould of repetitive flankering or a desperate desire to shock and subvert. But essentially dead inside. Sometimes it seems what the central tenet of perfumery…. simply to smell extraordinary…is disappearing amid our increasing need to buy into trends and peer acceptance.

The scented maverick, the olfactory maven is becoming a thing of the past. We are becoming defined by mediocrity. But I have faith… I know there are mavericks and rule breakers out there, scentheads, freaks and obsessives. I know some, I am one, work with them, love them, and desire them.  

So I want to initiate a sporadic Silver Foxy look at fragrances out in the scent-o-sphere that intrigue me and that I’d actually like to have on my precious tattooed skin.

Normally I prefer to blog about fragrances I have bought. I believe it honours the perfumer. I’m not a big fan of decants and find samples irritating and rarely reflect the actual juice. The perfume blogosphere runs on decants and sampling, something I just can’t be bothered with. Buy the juice, take your time. Desire things….want things…. Crave.

These are my wants and desires just now. (And yes…. I have succumbed as you will see to a few samples… my cravings are that bad!)

Number One - Séville à l’Aube by L’Artisan Parfumeur

Top of my list, and I know I’ve been going on about it for a while now, but… Séville à l’Aube by Bertrand Duchaufour is a feral, flickering force of perfumed beauty. A rare elixir, a successful gourmand oriental; it has the most exquisite beeswax and Luisieri lavender absolutes lashed to the brightest and most luscious orange blossom note I have smelt in years. This delicious and deeply porny explosion of ecstatic skin notes is folded into the arms of incense, petitgrain and my beloved benzoin. I’ve been lucky enough to be wearing this for a while now and I fell in love with it the moment it rose off my skin like an incantatory dream.

The story of this scent of course has been minutely documented in the book The Perfume Lover by Denyse Beaulieu, the talented and influential blogger behind Grain de Musc, one of the most eloquent fragrance blogs on the web. Her use of language is second to none and Denyse understands the unique power of fragrance to move us, change us and imprint moments in time. Indeed, Séville à l’Aube is a memory scent, an erotic moment from Denyse’s colourful past; Holy Week in Séville in the arms of a handsome Spaniard. This charged and amplified memory is veiled in smoke and ritual, candles, beeswax, orange blossom, light, skin, sweat, hair and desire.

Working (and bumping olfactory heads…!) with Bertrand Duchaufour to bring this memory to scented life is the fascinating core of her book. Originally to have been called Duende (a reference to the dark and sensual artistic force that defines much of Spanish art, literature, music and dance) this magical and textured fragrance has been picked up by Parisian niche house L’Artisan Parfumeur and will be sold throughout their boutiques. It is one of most eagerly awaited launches of the year. Bertrand has produced one of the finest fragrances of his career in my opinion, something a little new, a strange tactile animalic gourmand oriental that makes you want to be touched, hard and with passion. It’s a merciless Sadean scent, demanding your senses are torn apart and rebuilt with desire and a just a touch of exquisite pain.

Séville à L’Aube by L’Artisan Parfumeur – Limited Edition, available at selected boutiques, from 25th July 2012. 

Number 2 - Blackberry & Bay by Jo Malone

Blackberry & Bay by Jo Malone is due for release in early September. Accompanied again by a Hardyesque and whimsical campaign by Tim Walker, this is a really handsome and thoughtful fragrance, coming hot on the heels of their successful limited edition Velvet Rose & Oud Cologne Intense. I bought this and adore it, so sweet and jammy with that subtle underpinning of dirt that I love about cleverly balanced ouds. I was obsessed with last year’s Rosewater & Vanilla, wearing it over and over with so many different fragrances as a base and as a varnish. This year’s velvet incarnation pushes the plushness of the rose, the hedonistic drama of this most eroticized of blooms. The new Blackberry & Bay, created by Fabrice Pellegrin is a tightly constructed fragrance, marrying the sweet hedgerow magic of the ripened berry and the dry, country kitchen verdancy of the bay.

There is of course that familiar Jo Malone grapefruity sparkle running through the notes, a cologne fizz that lifts the potential sickliness of the blackberry note. I liked the vetiver and cedar earthiness of the drydown; it worked intimately and aromatically on my skin. Of course all blackberry fragrances must be measured against the magisterial Mûre et Musc by L’Artisan Parfumeur, the benchmark in all things sparkling, berry and green. The key to the L’Artisan Parfumeur scent has always been the very clever balance between the effervescent high-pitched Galaxolide musks and the bubbling just-picked hedgerow berry notes. There is also a beautiful rubbed leaf and stained fingers feel about Mûre et Musc which is missing from Blackberry and Bay. Jo Malone’s Blackberry & Bay is like an Elisabeth David recipe, less overblown than its French gilded counterpart, a little more reserved. Still very much in the French style but translated for the English palate and quietly beautiful for it.

Blackberry & Bay by Jo Malone, from September, general release.

Number 3 – Eau Sauvage Parfum by Dior

Edmond Roudnitska’s citrus and Hedione drenched behemoth Eau Sauvage has been around for so long, we nod wisely and accept it’s magnificence and more importantly its continuing crystalline beauty which seems to grow ever brighter as the years pass. Dior has wisely only played with flankers once or twice with varying degrees of success. I really liked the Eau Sauvage Cuir, with just a whisper of leather, the faintest of muffled whipcracks in the sunlight to give the classic formula a twist of Alain Delon enigma as it dried down. It was rather unexpected and somewhat poignant, like an adult weeping silently at a child’s party, surrounded by ruined cake and smeared balloons. I was not that enamoured of the Extrème version, it overdosed on the hedione and the citrus notes were too acidic, it was like biting down on tin foil. Now we are about to have a dramatic new interpretation of the classic scent. Called simply Eau Sauvage Parfum, re-worked and designed by Dior in-house maestro François Demachy, the new incarnation is part of Demachy’s campaign to reintroduce a younger more dynamic fragrance audience to the smells of Maison Dior. A lot of controversy has swirled around his attempts, accusations of destroying original formulations and releasing fragrances with the same names as classic Dior fragrances but bear very little resemblance to them. I personally think this is by the by, I like his work and admire what he is doing. Times change and if we can sniff even an echo of times gone by, we are lucky.

Eau Sauvage Parfum is completely different from its original namesake, with strange unsettling osmanthus-like notes running under an addictive oriental accord. You can smell Demachy’s work on Dior Homme Intense and his recent beautiful restructuring of Diorling. The floral tones are oddly disconcerting, settling like sweet dried fruits with a (very…) subtle breath of leather rolling out under the sugar. For me the most beautiful note; and this radiates off the skin, is the myrrh. One of the most beautiful notes in perfumery, used with dexterity in scent it can be a magical, transformative note. It combines with vetiver in Eau Sauvage Parfum to create a dense perfumed wall of sound. One of my all time favourite fragrances is the heartbreaking Eau Noire by Dior. This new savage water reminded me of how good fragrances can be and brought back memories of how visceral the shock of first finding Eau Noire was. This is going to be huge.

Eau Sauvage Parfum, Summer 2012. (Review from very large sample sent by superkind superchic Parisian friend…..Merci XX) 

Number 4 – Gucci Première by Gucci

Now, I flit back and forth to the high street, hoping for miracles and those of you who follow my blog will know how much I adored the Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum and the Cartier Baiser Volé last year, both exceptional examples of niche quality high street perfumes. This year, the Roberto Cavalli’s slick eurotrash tan-tastic take on orange blossom has seduced me despite strenuous attempts at resisting. It just smells bloody marvelous; sexy, fun, loud and gaudy, like moneyed skin swaying past you in Nice or Cannes. A little vulgar perhaps, overdoing the gold with the swimsuit, but hey, its hot, it’s the south of France, who cares?

So to Gucci. I loved Gucci by Gucci, the fabulous seventies style campaign by David Lynch with Racquel Zimmerman swaying hypnotically like some equine alien to Blondie’s Heart of Glass. Created by Ilias Ermenidis, Gucci by Gucci was a really delightful fruity attempt to re-invent the floral chypré with guava, honey and a delicious Tiare flower note that oozed out of the composition. The new Gucci Première is inspired by the luxurious dazzle of Hollywood and couture gowns. Fronted by Blake Lively, the Mert & Mercus campaign is modern and striking and sadly just a little bland. Frida Giannini has said :

‘For such a successful woman, something equally remarkable was required. Gucci Première is womanly, intriguing and as a seductive as the perfect couture gown.’

Again there is orange blossom, a key fragrance note this year in fragrance, mixed with bergamot, these two big notes symbolising the Italian heritage of Gucci. It is an intensely feminine fragrance, with a very traditional white floral heart, but somehow, the addition of Tonkin musks and a very delicate leather note create a much more sophisticated effect than I expected. It feels like Gucci have looked at the success of the Bottega Veneta eau de parfum by Michel Almairac and also the Elie Saab scent by Francis Kurkdjian and noticed that modern women are now looking for something a little more discerning and transformative to wear on their skin. Nothing too trangressional, that would be too shocking for the cashmere and silk set, but a juice with a hint of mystery and imagination. Gucci Première is not going to be winning any awards for originality but it has a certain quality of return, a moreishness that cannot be denied. I like the subtlety and restraint the fragrance demonstrates in the drydown, the etiquette if you like. It has a delicate presence on the skin, like an expensive fabric that has no need of gaudy colours or labels to signal its origins. I have worn it a number of times now and I am falling for its soft persuasive charms. 

Gucci Première Eau de Parfum by Gucci, Selfridges exclusive from 5th July, Nationwide from 25th July.


Number 5- The Scent of Departure: Vienna

I love everything about this fun new brand, the packaging, the art direction, the joie de vivre, the price point and the determination to do something a little differently. It could have been twee and self-conscious, but in the talented hands of perfumer Gérard Ghislain and designer Magali Sénéquier it is witty triumph. 

It is notoriously difficult to launch a niche fragrance brand in today’s competitive fragrance world. But Ghislain already has form; his Histoires des Parfums is an outrageously confident range of fragrances, an olfactory library of gorgeous works to be read and inhaled off the skin.

The Histoire des Parfums scents are definitely the work of a latter-day dandy, a man who loves the finer things in life. Inspired by famous (and infamous…!) people like the Marquis De Sade, George Sand, Eugenie de Montijo, Mata Hari, Jules Verne and some landmark years like 1969. (sexual revolution and the student uprisings in Paris). 1969 is my obsessive HdP fragrance, a experience that melts onto the skin and intensifies until your senses are hypnotized by its beauty. It is built round chocolate, peach, coffee, patchouli and lashings of musk. It verges on whorish, but the sweetness is always perfectly counterbalanced by the rubbed dirtiness of the patchouli. I could have a love affair with myself wearing this incredible perfume.  

So this year Ghislain has done something very different, light and airy almost, fun and incredibly well designed. A Scent of Departure is top to toe design conscious. Every part of the concept had travel elements; from the display stands and the destination board design for the website to the stylish luggage tag bottle packaging with the airport code names - CDG,LAX,LHR etc.

This is the brand introduction from the website. The idea behind the brand is to remind us as travellers how important olfactory imprinting is as we move around the world. I do this every time I travel actually, take a new scent with me and imprint it on the city I am visiting. Amsterdam was Bulgari Black. Moscow was Fleur de Cassie by Frederick Malle. And Paris is forever my beloved dank and sensual Eau Noire by Dior.  
The Scent of Departure fragrance I really want in my collection is Vienna….. Described as a city walk along the banks of the Danube, in the Palace Gardens of Belveder and of course surrounded by the city’s aromas of pastries – vanilla, chocolate, cream and coffee. Strauss rhythms and warm comforting gourmandise delights. The notes include cut grass, mint, tarragon, anise, clove and rhubarb. These top and heart notes sit on a gourmand base of vanilla, chocolate, coffee, licquorice and some lovely guaiac wood and patchouli. This mix is strange and beguiling. Cold yet warm. Standoffish and come hither. Like Vienna itself, sometimes the chocolate-box appearance of the city can be overwhelming, but the heart of the city beats with genuine beauty, foodie warmth and humour. It just takes a little patience to find it. 
The Scent of Departure: Vienna, 50ml 40 £31