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

Thursday 31 January 2013

Sweet Cask Memories (or Some Like it Bluesy): ‘Speakeasy’ by Frapin

I have written about this remarkable fragrance by Marc-Antoine Corticchiato for Frapin a lot recently on the Fox’s Facebook page and I picked it as one of my five fragrances I wanted from Papa Noel. I became somewhat consumed with the idea of Speakeasy and what I would smell like, how it would evolve, how the carefully assembled notes would unfold and seduce my senses. I imagined the tobacco, liatrix, mint, leather, tonka, white musks and immortelle all tumbling and writhing across me. I realised I was obsessed with the idea of a fragrance I had never actually experienced. 

My friend in olfactory exploration, Bertrand, visited Nose, the new temple of scented wonder at 20 rue Bachaumont in Paris and fell for its charms… (Amongst a number other things it must be said!). He is becoming quite the perfumed rogue. He and his partner Dounia sent me the loveliest gift for Christmas, a box of perfumed, edible and heartfelt delights. In it was an atomiser brimming with Speakeasy. Now, I didn’t know what it was it when I first tried it on, as Bertrand & Dounia had deliberately not labeled it. I had no idea. It smelt so weird, sweetly tannic and green, like a shot of whisky and wheatgrass strained through a rusty sieve by a woman smoking Gitanes through a veil. I realised it had to be something Bertrand had bought and guessed it was Speakeasy.

The reason I wanted to write this post is because I am rarely wrong-footed by a fragrance. But the disparity between reading so much about Speakeasy and the actual smelling of it was truly visceral. I don’t think I’ve sampled something in a long time as complex and idiosyncratic that smelt so utterly different from how I expected it to be. It felt so good to be thrown off kilter.

I almost laughed out loud when I realised how peculiar the scent was, how the notes I expected actually coalesced into something else altogether; a portrait of ambivalence, shared desires, cocktails, secrets and laughter in the night. Leather and smoke became alive and whispered of jolting love in cars. Davana, styrax and orange spoke of abandonment, straying fingers and lacquered nails. The mojito accord of mint, lime and rum is the sweetener before the break-ups in a louche deco bar. There is innocence too, a sweet bready background note of patisserie, a whiff of rum baba, a childhood memory of cake shops and kitchens mixed with a mother’s smile. Perfume fills the bar; a smear of lipstick stains a glass. I can smell the fuzzy scent of hairspray mixed with booze and cigarette trails.

Speakeasy is all this and more. Ephemeral. Never heavy. The images it raises shimmer and blur like a mirage, never quite fully coming into focus. I had imagined something so much deeper. A dark, echoing room with everything swirling like amber whisky rolling around the base of a cut crystal glass in the light of flickering fire. I expected density, the notes to weigh down on the skin, to be almost tactile. But the layers of scented effects shift and slide seamlessly over each other like a series of perfumed Japanese screens; transparent enough to allow the admittance of light and shade but still opaque enough to permit a certain privacy and structure.

Marc-Antoine’s oeuvre for his own house Parfums D’Empire is often very dramatic, so I guess I was expecting echoes of this in Speakeasy. I am huge fan of his Ambre Russe, an opera of leather, black tea, ambergris, vodka, smoke and an almost gleeful violence of notes marching through the composition. The cacophony of effects paint a picture of a cavalry officer’s boots flung aside before passionate sex on fur and silks, smoking and smashing vodka glasses into an open fire. It has a glorious intensity, getting stronger as it settles, and the boozy weaving of oriental and ecclesiastical notes rising to the heavens like a guilty whispered prayer.

The other two outstanding fragrances from the line are Musc Tonkin and Cuir Ottoman. Marc-Antoine’s extensive experience with the composition of natural raw materials has served him remarkably well as a perfumer. There is a minute attention to detail and for me an intrinsic awareness of texture. He seems to embroider fragrances, into luxurious fabrics of olfactory wonder, the notes woven together seamlessly to create olfactory tapestries of drama and harmonious beauty.

Marc-Antoine is Corsican, born however in Morocco and raised partly amid the citrus groves of North Africa and the family home of Cuttoli Corticchiato amid the fabled Corsican maquis. From a background in chemistry and an interest in the scented life cycles of aromatic plants, he completed his training at the world famous ISIPCA, the École Internationale de Parfumerie De Versailles.

Parfums D’Empire is a collection of fragranced publications inspired by Marc-Antoine’s passion for history. Each scent echoes an aspect of great empires: Russian, Ottoman, Alexandrine, and Napoleonic for example. He also sees the skin as an empire to be conquered by perfume, his perfumes. The fragrances are notable for their glowing depth and quality of raw ingredients. Cuir Ottoman has a truly beautiful dirtiness, a reveling in the baseness of skin.

The limited edition Musc Tonkin is slutty and oily, swimming with balms, resins, fire and of course an massive overdose of musks. There are no notes listed for this concentrated extract, but the composition reeks of fucked skin, the heat and exhalations of post-coital flesh, perfumed and wantonly sweaty. An homage to Tonkin musk, a very rare musk produced by Himalayan deer, the juice waxes and wanes with a fevered honeyed intensity. I sampled it on a visit to London and felt pornographic for hours. It spreads out and amplifies, ripples of musk becoming huge waves until you are knocked off your feet by the force of the effects. It made me feel vaguely unwell too, headachy and dizzy, like that point on an evening out when you know you really should go home…. but you don’t. The lure of the night is too addictive. If you get a chance to try it, please do, it makes the skin a dirty canvas begging to be licked and bruised.  

In his own words: “. My scents are an invitation to explore the most complex and mysterious of empires: the realm of the senses.”

P. Frapin & Cie was established in 1270 in the heart of the Grande Champagne region of France, establishing themselves in the Chateau de Fontpinot. The estate covers 300 hectares and the family has been distilling cognac for over twenty generations. 

As I live in Scotland I have over the years learned a lot about the whisky industry and while I cannot say I am massive fan of the amber nectar (I also stopped drinking 7 years ago), the variety of regional styles and odours that permeate the trade still amazes me. The scent of distilleries is kaleidoscopic, the older the better. Coastal ones for example can have an oceanic, iodine tang mixed with the woody, yeasty scents of the actual processes. Some of the distilleries have a whiff of must and dirt, some are gleaming new chromatic wonders with a steely sharpness of citrus and beery foamy wonder. The language used in the whisky trade is astonishing, ranging from fruity innuendo to downright abstract and goddam filthy and vile. From Weetabix, hen’s mash and oilskin to Madeira cake, nutmeg and bubblegum.

Holidaying in Burgundy some years ago I had the opportunity to visit several vineyards and wineries. Again it was the smells and textures of the air that I remember, not so much the tastings and wine we bought. The dry vineyards themselves have a particular fluttering salad aroma and I remember the tannic dust and burnt fruit tones in the cellar air. In one old vineyard there was a weird humming metallic scent in the extraction chambers that felt comforting and oppressive. And finally the incredible boozy lullaby of cavernous rooms where casks of wine lay slumbering in semi-darkness as the elements slowly macerated and blended, creating a dense and complex palette of tastes and aromas.

All these cask memories started coming back as I wore Speakeasy and concentrated on the oddness of the drydown, the shift from mojito fruity top down through the blond tobacco, leather, resins, tonka and musks. It shouldn’t really work, draping the ghost of a rum-soaked gourmand over the tough skeleton of a resinous leather scent. But the sweet aftertaste works, it allows the skin to love the cellar notes and bar smoke, the potential pitfalls of olfactory abstraction. Frapin have centuries of experience in the fine art of maceration and blending in order to achieve the perfect balance on the palette and in the brain. Bringing the weight of this knowledge to bear on perfumery was always going to yield intriguing results.  

In 2002 Frapin decided to launch 1270, what they like to refer to thier parfum des origines, the scent of their roots, or the scent of the soil if you like. Created by the daughter of the family, Beatrice Cointreau with the Frapin Cellar Master, 1270 was designed to celebrate the vertiginous heritage of the Frapin legacy and the terre itself, the fruits of the vine, the Folle Blanche grape and the obsessive stages of the cognac’s history. Built around a duet of vine flowers and the dry green licquorice tones of immortelle, 1270 mixes candied orange, nuts, prunes, cocoa, tonka and coffee over a sublime and harmonious base of honey, vanilla and woods.

1270 was the first Frapin I came across on a New Year trip to Paris and I was blown away by the resonance of the accords and in particular the controlled booziness of the drydown. Like the flickering heat of burning Christmas spirits, the blend of woods, spice, fruit and floral facets is masterly. Everything smells finished, smoothed off and matured. This boozy woozy sexiness was pushed even further by Bertrand Duchaufour’s 1697, a celebration of the year that Louis IX bestowed the Frapin family with the status of nobility and a coat of arms. Rum, rose, patchouli, jasmine sambac and ambergris meld together with dried fruits and spices, producing a voluptuous, head-spinning eau de parfum of unique power. It burns off the skin like fire, woody, moreish, giddy and so very sensual.

So for Speakeasy, Frapin turned to Marc-Antoine Corticchiato. Speakeasys were all about coded signals, what to say, who to talk to, passwords and the potential dangers of drinking during the Prohibition era. This made everything sparkle at the edges with alarm and threat. With the booze-swilling culture we have now it is quite hard to imagine a time when Prohibition could have been a real state of affairs. Now that tobacco has become persona non grata in so many countries across the western world, more and more of us are less exposed (probably a good thing) to the smell of tobacco. I gave up smoking years ago. Yet I still have days and minutes when I imagine a Marlboro Light in my hand, the strange anticipation of my heart rising in rhythm to meet the first draw. But most of my smoking memoires are linked to Gauloises in Paris, and coffee, nasty endless cups in Bastille cafes, idling time with ratty wannabe punkish boys and bored au-pairs. Smoking until I wanted to pass out or die and then just tearing open another soft pack and starting again.

As I mentioned earlier I was expecting Speakeasy to be more amber toned, tawny in the glass as it were. So the blond tobacco note that floats out of the notes early on was quite a shock. It is clean and damp, lip-wet. This soft smoky come-hither feel is deepened by the use of immortelle and its addictive aromas of burnt sugar and sweet grass. Liatrix (deer tongue) and tonka bean enhance the sense of hazy interiors even more; a fan overhead slowly chop chopping through the air as the smoke rises and falls around lipsticked mouths and blue unshaven chins.

The magnificence of Speakeasy is the playfulness, the laughter at the bar, the couple unafraid to laugh, crash their glasses together and kiss with abandon. This joy is the incredibly beautiful mojito accord that Cortcchiato has built into the top of the fragrance. It smells expensive; a cocktail mixed with the world’s finest ingredients, in this case, rum, Russian mint and fizzy lime from Brazil. It works brilliantly, cool and laid back, wrong-footing anyone expecting the tobacco and base notes to throw themselves forward demanding attention. Cortcchiato is far too subtle a perfumer for that. A touch of orange and the sweetness of Davana keep the top notes exhilarating for far longer than one would expect.

The base has ciste, styrax, labdanum, musks and leather blended with the tobacco and immortelle. They are heavy hitting notes. But nothing ever feels weighed down or muddied. As Speakeasy dried down I was continually surprised by the complexity of the evaporation curve, the evolution of the materials assembled by Corticchiato. I kept picking up a really compulsive rum baba note, sticky, heady and very nostalgic. Paris again. Tearooms in winter with hot chocolate served properly in jugs with milk to thin it out. The bustle of veiled cruising happening all around as I nibbled and dipped my booze-drenched baba, catching eyes and looking away with a smile. This delicious patisserie note, tempered by the curveball mojito effect at the top is what makes Speakeasy so unusual and desirable on the skin. I think however it is the addition of immortelle absolute that swings it for me; it is one of my keynote materials. I wrote about it extensively in my post on L’Être Aimé by Parfums Divine, which is shaped by this delicious scrubby wonder.

The very particular burnt sugar and scorched chlorophyll facets of immortelle; along with a whiff of licquorice left in the sun bolster the off-kilter gourmand jazzy vibe that comes off Speakeasy. It runs through the scent like a tenor sax note as the other elements mingle and coalesce into a soft-focused noir bar scene, plaintive yet persistent and unforgettable.

I am very taken with this skewed and bluesy scent. It has a certain laid back quality to it, a tension of illicit love, of stolen kisses and lipstick in the gloom, stubble against one’s cheek, a whiff of cigarettes, the smell of the streets on a hat and fingers. Speakeasy is bravura perfume making, a maceration of themes and ideas from a perfumer and an ancient cognac House. Together they have created something innovative and singularly distinctive. Santé!

For more info on Frapin please click below:

For info on Parfum D'Empire and Marc-Antoine Cortchiatto, please click below:

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Poison Skin & Haunted Residues – ‘Cuir Venenum’ by Parfumerie Générale

Pierre Guillaume’s background in chemistry and his assiduous devotion to creating fragrances that continue to be provocative and intensely luxurious has made him one of most intriguing people working in the perfume industry today. I regularly have Musc Maori and Felanilla in my collection, both of which burn off my skin with the intensity of supernovae. The banana wood note anchored under the saffron, vanilla and iris absolutes in Felanilla is incredibly clever and never fails to make me close my eyes and dream a little when I wear it. Musc Maori is just the most sensual mix of white musks, coffee and cocoa accords. Guillaume uses cumaru wood to drip a creamy filling through the notes as the fragrance heats up. It transforms the skin into a trembling sensual canvas, awaiting the touch of fingers and lips to trace pictures and words.  

This ability of Guillaume’s to add something particular and tremendous into each of his fragrances; to explore new olfactory landscapes and play with sensory story telling has made him a quietly devastating force within the fickle world of niche fragrance. For example, he uses a technique called photo-affinage, utilising ultra violet radiation to shatter, diffuse and smooth notes in his creations. This is used in two of his fragrances: Cozé and L’Eau de Circé. It is an expensive and demanding technique that seems to inject a sense of expansion and aching delirium into the notes, pushing at the edges of the spaces between the accords.

The Parfumerie Générale house style of glassy ambience and architectural beauty wrapped around meticulous and often breathtaking notes has created a unique and very exciting body of work. Parfumerie Générale perfumes are divisive. I like this polarising aspect, all good scent should be; all of us liking similar bland perfumed strands would be terribly dull. I don’t like all of Pierre Guillaume’s perfumes, but the smooth oddness that permeates his work is very addictive. When you find the right one for your skin the results can be sublime.

Parfumerie Générale fragrances smell like the work of a man obsessed by the very atomic being of scent. By considering the emotional response of the wearer and how the trousseau of notes dazzle, the fragrances bind the senses like contemporary spells. I consider myself lucky my skin loves his fragrances.

I have always been fascinated by the alchemical aspect of fragrance, where the construction of notes and accords moves past itself into something more instinctual and spiritual. Great fragrance should have the ability to move us, haunt our spaces, and draw people to us like light-struck moths. Wearing Parfumerie Générale fragrances we notice ourselves or a facet of ourselves that was not there before.

The generic world of mainstream perfumery is surprisingly still pretty rigid in its guidelines for genders. Woods, aromatics and citrus for men, floral, chyprés and gourmands for women. There are of course exceptions, but generally most big names rarely deviate from established patterns in fragrance production. This is then carried across into marketing and PR, the need to sell quickly, make money back and try and establish the scent in a volatile, fickle market. This is where niche tends to differ. The rules and lines are there but they oscillate, allowing smaller niche houses to be much more free in their choices and olfactory directions. Don’t get me wrong, some niche Houses are just as rigid, but increasingly there a number of what I think of as concept houses redefining the definitions of how we wear scent and what we consider fragrance in the first place.

Brands like Nez à Nez, Blood Concept, Etat Libre D’Orange, Huitième Art (Pierre Guillaume’s other sensual and more minimal line…), Magnetic Scents, Lez Nez, CB I Hate Perfume, Bex London, Jul et Mad, Arquiste and Tauer Perfume to name a few are redefining the way we look at the concept of fragrance. The juice itself is the sole focus of attention. It is the art. This shift towards the skin and its interaction with the complexity of aromachemistry and the perfumer’s art seems obvious; yet in recent years moneymaking and marketing have become the driving force in the perfumery industry. An increase in awareness via social networking media and consumers demanding more information and eclecticism for their dollar/euro/yen has allowed niche fragrance to flourish in the disparate cracks of the high street. Like glorious underrated wild flowers, they have slowly become increasingly important and flagrantly beautiful. Stealth perfumery and all the more beautiful for it.

You do have to work a little harder to find a scent that suits you, but surely that is part of the pleasure? Sometimes the notes are oblique, difficult, challenging, the textual settings obfuscating and tremulous. It can seem a tad pretentious and chilly, but in terms of travelling, the journey will be littered with unexpected details and ideas that maybe confound and confront the senses. The destination however will be luxurious and worthwhile, a fragrance that seems at once personal and eternal. The perfumers working in niche seem intrinsically aware of the effect of their creations and the beauty of having such unique scents on the body. Wearing something this beautiful and connective ensures osmosis of perfume, skin and soul.

Over the top? Well many of us feel somewhat raw and exposed without scent. It provides olfactory armour, comfort and sometimes weaponry. I am always searching for new skin sensations, something that will shock me, thrill me and seduce my fussy synapses. Once you have found the right connection between your skin/self and a perfume, the sensuality will unfold around you like a never-ending story.

I fell head over heels for Pierre Guillaume’s No 25 Indochine when it was released in 2011. I was drawn initially to the name; Régis Wargnier’s film, Indochine is one of my favourite films, a film I watch over and over, the languid glacial beauty of Catherine Deneuve betrayed against the backdrop of French colonial rule in Indochina from the 1930s to 1950s. Soaring, dramatic and bitterly passionate, Indochine swept me away when I first saw it in a small damp and fading Edinburgh arthouse cinema in 1992. The lushness of the rubber plantations, the vast looming scenery, magnified emotions, claustrophobic relationships and the awareness of times changing made for compelling and devastating viewing. Deneuve is always at her best when her exquisite patrician exterior masks deep caverns of seething sexuality. She is a true force of nature and flickers through the film like golden fire.

In No 25 Indochine Pierre Guillaume locates his perfume in the calm languid era of colonial ambience and stability before the troubles. The tone, opulence and sheer drawn-out beauty of the time are carefully painted into one of the most beautiful of his creations. Guillaume used a duo of sepia images from the 1920s of Mekong River pleasure cruises as his starting point. This captured moment of an era, portrayed in lacquered tones, planted seeds of spice, resins and sweetness in a perfumed brain.

Using Kampot pepper from Siam, considered the finest in the world, cardamom from Ceylon, Laotian honey, a really smooth and heavenly benzoin from Siam and that trademark PG special touch, Tanakha, a highly fragrant wood paste used in Burma, Pierre Guillaume has woven a intoxicating and cinematic portrait of his inspirations. His olfactory camera grazes across the skin with unerring sensuality and grace.

One of my keystone scents has always been Annick Ménardo’s Bulgari Black with its aromas of rubber, smoky tea and vanillic skin. I recognize a similar rubber note in Indochine; it nestles amid the lactonic fruitiness of the bronzed heart of the scent. Like a bell struck in a temple, the ripples of scent roll out through the air. I don’t think anyone really does gourmand quite like Guillaume, he finds notes and facets that seem impossible and creates melting intensity within seemingly simple structures. Notes shape-shift. Resins become coffee, grasses resemble chocolate, citrus notes bloom like the most hedonistic of tropical flowers.

So, to Cuir Venenum, one of Guillaume’s greatest fragrances, but also I think one of his least understood. I have read a lot of mixed reviews, perfumeheads bemoaning the lack of fuck-off leather, the contradiction in the name, Leather Poison. They miss the point. It is slow acting poison, gradually infecting you and consuming you to the point of madness.

Now I LOVE all manifestations of leather in my fragrances: soft, porn, whipcracks, suede, dirty, w
Cowboy, motorcycle, lipstick, sweat and floral. All are welcome. I adore the roar in the animalic night of Dzing! by Olivia Giacobetti, the woozy drifting of Michel Almairac’s gorgeous floral leather for Bottega Veneta, the piercing sluttiness of the Kelly Calèche Extrait by Jean Claude Ellena and the Dietrich-fucks-on-a-motorbike glory of Tom of Finland by Etat Libre d’Orange. I am liking the re-orchestration of Diorling just now too, it smells astonishing on my skin, all dirty green and fucked up powder. My most recent crush is the incredibly sensual new quartet of leather-soaked Mugler fragrances. The incarnation of Angel with its shudderingly sexy combo of chocolate, fruits and tanned leather is sublime and the compliments flutter to you like bees to pollen.

Leather in scent makes me feel porny. Simple really. I would like to imagine I was a highwayman in a previous life, swathed in black, a supple mask wrapped across my face as I robbed and flirted my way through swathes of regency dandies and coy powdered girls. The truth of the matter is that leather notes suit my skin and my limbic system process the smells as something intensely erotic and comforting. The echo of skin on skin, buried DNA memories of tooth and claw, the savagery tamed by whipcracks, but only just.

Cuir Venenum is a very odd perfume, an abstracted and elaborately built scent with layers that unveil with great dexterity and quiet eroticism. There is a kiss of danger to it, a dripping of tattoo studio and spilt beer. I spend so much time getting inked; the place has a very particular scent, whiffs of ink, oil from the tattoo machines, antiseptic spray, Vaseline and latex. My tattooist also has ancient leather trousers that add a certain je ne sais quoi to the general ambience.

Like an eccentric friend who always rocks up and does the unexpected, Cuir Venenum delights and throws up surprises each time I wear it. This is what good scent is about: difference. Difference from the general scented pack but also difference on a more finite level, the everyday interaction of skin and senses. I love scents that smell different each time I wear them. Be it mood, attitude, heat, season, whim, carnality or sheer bloody mindedness it is always interesting to perceive the shifts in quality scent; the roll and tumble of the notes, the sudden appearance of an impression not noticed before.

I was wearing Cuir Venenum for a couple of sumptuous days when I kept thinking of a booth in a favourite bar years ago when I was still drinking. The seats were leather, the walls dark wood and the smoking ban was still in the future. I went so often with a friend, our drinks magically appeared without us saying anything. My favourite barman was a beautiful redheaded boy with amazing translucent skin and a way of making you feel private, eroticised and cared for. I had a passion for raspberry beer; the kind that came wrapped in paper. The taste was weirdly brown, tannic and fizzy with a delicious hoppy aroma. It was addictively sticky and all my memories of laughing and bitching and occasionally crying in that aromatic booth came flooding back as Cuir Venenum dropped onto my skin and exuded its soft beery leather whimsy.  

As is usual with anything created by Pierre Guillaume, the notes assembled to create Cuir Venenum are of the very highest quality and read like a roll call of desire. If recited softly over my skin as I lie tied to a bed; I would chew through my restraints with desire.

The head notes have a bubbling citrus accord, orange flowers absolutes mixed with hawthorn; a very odd note that always reminds of my summer garden as a sullen unpredictable teen. An unruly hawthorn tree hung its head over a wall at the top of the garden and the thick, bitter scent was intoxicating, awash with foraging bees. My mother always told me it was bad luck to bring hawthorn (or May blossom as it sometimes known) into the house. The tisane is very popular in France, exuding a yeasty, sillage aroma as the water hits the herbs. I can really smell it in the top of the scent, it is quite distinctive. Interesting fact: trimethylamine, a natural chemical present in hawthorn blossom is one of the first chemicals given off as animal tissue starts to decay. This explains the sometimes off-putting bouquet that drops from hawthorn as it starts to turn on the branch. It can be suffocating.

The heart is where the leather sits, soft and a little tear-stained, cocooned in a quite lovely note of coconut sugar alcohol. This polyalcohol has been very subtly combined with musks and adds background and sweetness to the structure in much the same way Gomme adds sweetness to cocktails. The most unusual note in the perfume is Tamanol. This is actually a rosin-modified phenolic resin and goes a long way to explaining the hops and fruits beer effect I love so much. This is an odour of Edinburgh skies; the city’s breweries leak a hoppy damp, mulchy aroma into the air and it carries through the air across the rooftops and trees, permeating swathes of the capital. I have always known this smell. Ever since I was a student here many moons ago, this smell links me shockingly to this, my city. When you pull into Waverley Station on the train sometimes, peering up at the formidable drop of the castle rock, the smell of hops leaks in through the windows mingling with diesel and the smell of wet stone. This is Edinburgh.     

The base of Cuir Venenum has an unexpected honeyed note, soft and cleverly executed, it drips over the musks and potentially harrowing myrrh note to delicious and breakfasty effect. It is the overall harmony and polished eccentricity of Parfumerie Générale fragrances that I love so much. I never tire of their inventiveness and élan. Their ability or intention to provoke an emotional response is often cited in articles and in interviews with Pierre Guillaume himself. He is a rarity in perfumery, a genuine sensualist. One with a vision of a million skins, all of them radiating his unique elixirs.

I find his oeuvre quite intoxicating. The ones I have worn have stayed alive in my memory and I can accurately recall how they developed and haunted the skin. I don’t like everything, but this is to be expected. He is pushing at and twisting the rules of established perfumery. He is sometimes criticised for being too clever and producing work that is cold and overly artistic. But if this is coldness, I will happily freeze in its embrace.

I find a tantalizing darkness in Cuir Venenum, almost just beyond my reach. It starts out all fizzy and sharp with its lick of orange blossom and citrus top notes really buzzing the senses. Then it begins to unsettle me for reason I find hard to really explain. The fruity beer heart spills over leather and perhaps burns a little round the edges; a whiff of phenolic sulphur mingling with the coconut and musks. There is a turning, a fermentation on the skin. Then a falling, a descent into resinous exhaustion. The sweetness lingers, but it is dirty now and worn to the nub. It is a scent of residues and traces. I feel I should be collapsed on a mussed bed, wrists chaffing from soft restraints, loved to utter lassitude.

I muster the energy to walk into a night exuding the worn remnants of leather and bar room exhalations. It is at once liberating and crushingly sad.     


For more information on Pierre Guillaume & Parfumerie Générale, please click on the link below: