Monday, 24 September 2012
Wandering through Harvey Nichols on a work break, tired and vaguely peeved as I am usually am in department stores by the miasma of scent and the slapdash approach to perfume promotion, I was not really expecting to see or at least smell anything interesting. I had already been utterly deflated by the latest Tom Ford floral releases, hyped as usual and massively underwhelming. As a man obsessed with all things lilium related I had been looking forward to trying his Lys Fumé, the lily soliflore from the Jardin Noir quartet. I realised after spraying it on, there is a facet to all of the TF fragrances that I actively dislike; that in fact rather irritates me. Despite all the talk of high-level naturals and absolutes etc, they all have an off-putting malaise, a breath of deoderised car, lighter fuel and smoked bug spray that sits under the notes like a latent curse. The Lys Fumé was no exception; in fact I recoiled from my own skin. Now if you follow my writing you will now how much I adore lily soliflores, I have at least six or seven tremulous variations in my collection at home, but this smelt like burnt bathroom freshener, not a good effect in a fragrance.
Revisiting my wrist in a vain hope the drydown might unlock a twist in the formula and I would perhaps marvel at the sudden majesty of lily-form lines and curves, I noticed the new Balenciaga fragrance was being merchandised. Obviously just in, the striking carnivorous botanical packaging caught my eye and lured me over. The Lys Fumé at this point had withered to a flat and unimaginative campheraceous echo of the original indolic floral flourish. The smoked note was drawn in the air like cheap cigarette smoke in a bus shelter. I am really beginning to wonder whether the immaculately hirsute Mr Ford has anything to do with his scents any more, they are becoming increasingly dull and formulaic. Pricy and glossy Dynasty concoctions for scousewives and Beverly Hills princesses.
Florabotanica is the third fragrance from Balenciaga under the mighty creative sweep of Nicholas Ghesquière, one of the few true visionaries working in fashion today. The first two fragrances used the enigmatic note of violet to create similar yet reflectively different interpretations. I will admit to being rather underwhelmed by the first Balenciaga Paris, which I found bloodless and wan. It expired far too quickly on my skin and made me shudder as if shaking the hand of someone I knew was going to die. It was too safe, despite a coldly beautiful campaign fronted by the mercurial and inscrutable Charlotte Gainsbourg. However the second version, Balenciaga Paris L’Essence, was divine, poetic and fairytale-like in its dreamy interpretation of the way through the woods. The violets glowing amethyst in hazy pockets of sunshine dappled with glinting metallic musk tones like coins in the sunlight counterpointing the floral elements with elegance and grace; lending an air of toughness I found lacking in the original.
Friday, 14 September 2012
Pour D & B, Merci.
I received the most wonderful gift in the post from two new friends in Lyon recently. Fellow fragrance lovers, on holiday in Edinburgh earlier this year, we met and bonded over olfactory passions, practiced our languages and now talk in the electronic ether about all things fragrance related. They both have exquisite emotional taste in perfume and are adventurous in their desires to search out the new and unusual while remaining faithful to fragrances that anchor them to memories of their travels, home and each other.
I sent them some samples of fragrance, Penhaligon’s Peoneve and a spare bottle of my touchtone leather, Tom of Finland by Etat Libre D’Orange for B to try. My gift arrived wrapped in lovely vintage Laura Ashley wallpaper, and slightly knocked from its journey and there was a faint scent of caramelised sugar rising from the paper. Inside the box was a bottle of L’Être Aimé by Parfums Divine, a bijou niche house based in Dinard on the north coast of Brittany and founded by Yvon Mouchel in 1986.
Mouchel’s elegant and classically constructed fragrances have become quietly successful with perfume cognoscenti and lovers of scented difference. As an independant, Mouchel has control over his own business, releasing a limited number of bottles a year. Instead of following trends he is free to explore his love and passion for the drama and classicism of fine fragrance. His first creation, the eponymous Divine, released in 1986 is a sophisticated and truly elegant portrayal of woman as art. TO me she is swathed in pearls and a subtle cigarette haze with the music of Mahler playing softly around her as she stands at a window looking out in the night. It was Divine that created the scented buzz that started Mouchel’s cult following.
Originally from a cosmetics background, Mouchel was pretty much fragrance self taught, obsessed with the artistic aspects of olfactory experiences. He works with renowned noses, fellow Breton Yann Vasnier (Givaudan)and Richard Ibanez (Robertet)to create a line of fragrances that have clarity, intent and tremendous beauty. They seem to echo luminous creations of the past, while somehow remaining totally unique to themselves. This is very difficult to achieve in today’s crowded and cloned fragrance world.
‘Creating a perfume is an artform…. A great perfume is a work of art’.
This is how Mouchel views his world. Perhaps other perfumers should listen (and take notes….!) and we might be spared the avalanche of tedious smelling releases that crowd around us with the monotony of elevator jazz.
The attention to detail and commitment to quality in Divine frgrances is superb. Each of the fragrances has soul, personality and oozes distinctive style. I have sampled the original Divine and L’Homme de Coeur before. Then someone passed on a decant of L’Inspiratrice, dismissing it as too sweet for their skin. I on the other hand loved its sweetness, it translated into chocolate fire on my skin, laced with ylang, peony, white musks and tonka, all things I like in my fragrances. Also the rose note floating through was rather mournful, like a cloud passing overhead on an otherwise sunny day. Most beguiling.