I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.
Saturday, 22 February 2014
The Scent of A Wicked Lady – ‘Tobacco Rose’ and Papillon Perfumes
who dares not grasp the thorn
never crave the rose.”
Silver Fox is relatively new to Twitter and to be honest part of me is still a
little ambiguous about my decision to sign up. I am willing to accept the
enormous benefits it has brought to my profile as a blogger and writer and for
this I am very grateful; people have been very kind and supportive. I have been
able to reach out to perfumers, Houses and boutiques in a way that is virtually
impossible with Facebook and posting blogs. I have always written for personal
and aesthetic reasons and for the beauty of the perfumed world. I have received
some nasty and snide messages in recent months criticizing my emotive style, my
lack of negative fragrances reviews (apparently it’s not okay just to be
positive…) and most oddly my speed of publication. To all of these I say
nothing. My work is my work, read it or don’t.
the great joys of Twitter is making friends and the immediacy of getting to
know them. It feels exhilarating and charming. There is a sense of community,
even if I don’t chat and participate as much as some do, the reassuring flow of
news, trivia, shared olfactory expertise and gossip is both cocooning and
stimulating. This is how I met Elizabeth (Liz) Moores, the founder and joyous
creatrix behind a nascent niche house, Papillon Perfumery, based near the New
Forest in southern England. Getting to know her, bouncing thoughts and laughs
back and forth has been a demonstration of the benevolence of Twitter and for
that alone I am grateful.
triptych of ornate and alluring fragrances has been created by Liz, Anubis, Tobacco Rose and Angélique,
all housed in classic squared-off bottles and graced with Papillon’s trademark
butterfly motif. Launching later this year and already garnering some excellent
pre-launch reviews and feedback, the three scents are all eau de parfum
strength and feel deeply textured on the skin. I have a feeling they lean more
toward extrait in their
constructions, such is the billowing amplification of intent on the skin. They
already have the ambience and heft of fragrances I have always known somewhere
in my history. The notes have resonance and a delightful dexterity in their
transmutation of raw materials and delicately rendered aromachemistry.
arrived at this sweet aromatic moment after years of hard scented work, trial
and error, endless mods, sleepless nights and a sense of perfumed dedication
informing her that she was good, damn good. Her background has a ballet story
and some remedial massage. Both these elements strike me as vital, using poise,
control and carefully applied force where needed to achieve specific effects.
Both mediums demand patience and continuous application of technique.
handling of essential oils in her massage led Liz to broaden and deepen her
understanding of aromachemistry and the building blocks of fine fragrance. She
completed the Fragrance Foundation CFSS (Certified Fragrance Sales Specialist) course
in 2009, submitted to further training then and set about scent making, for
friends and family, art & literary projects with one eye continually on a more
definitive perfumed future.
is artisanal, batch-made juice, the kind I adore, made with passion, anger,
sweat and devotion. Chatting to Liz on Twitter, especially about the TobaccoRose, my favourite of her three fragrances, she was full of humour
and gutsy self-criticism about the painful gestation of her rosaceous wonder.
It took 147 mods and a lot of creative tantrums for Liz to finally walk away
from her testing willful rose, able perhaps to admit she could allow it a sense
of freedom, an unfinished edge, a sense of olfactory selvedge. Continuing to
chip away at it, honing and obsessing would have left her with nothing except
remorse and anger. (And perhaps a battered weary rose…).
I have a
veritable bouquet of rose fragrances in my collection and never tire of
sampling new ones. I’ve written before on my aging swoon into this most luxurious and carnal of blooms. The
velveteen petals, the weight of symbolism, thorns, love, blood, sexuality, the
feel of flesh, death and funereal decoration, the vortex of giddy, compelling
scent; all these things roll and crash against each other like aromatic tides. I
find rose scents so alluring and thankfully they work beautifully with my skin
chemistry. I like my roses on the darker side, the hue of wine, night and papal
misconduct. Touches of spice, civet, amber, oppoponax, oud, and chocolate are
things I love. But a part of me obsesses over a lipstick accord, the smeared
boudoir nostalgia of roses and violet with a dusting of orris and a sparkle of
raspberry. So I embrace Voleur des Roses
and Drôle de Rose by L’Artisan
Parfumeur, Lipstick Rose by Éditions
Frédéric Malle, Rose Anonyme by
Atelier Cologne, Nahéma by Guerlain, Amber Rose by Shay & Blue, Velvet Rose & Oud and Rosewater & Vanilla by Jo Malone, Isparta by Parfumerie Générale, Rose d’Homme by Rosine, Angel Rose Garden of Stars by Parfums
Mugler, Ta’if by Ormonde Jayne, Sa Majesté La Rose by Serge Lutens and Rose Barbare by Guerlain.
esteemed list must now be added Liz’s intoxicating and oddly blasphemous Tobacco Rose, so unlike any of the above
and testament to her commitment to and (often difficult) relationship with this
most demanding of flowers. I say blasphemous as there is the most delicious
sensation of transgression that emanates from the skin, an image of a deeply
scented whore, veiled and gaudy, walking the aisle of a catholic church in the
quiet aftermath of mass, genuflecting in sunlit traces of resinous smoke. It is
a wicked boozy scent in so many ways and I LOVE it. A blend of two different
roses, sweet smeared beeswax, oakmoss, ambergris, damp ashen hay and a lovely
gourmand patchouli base.
been wearing it so much recently, along with Anubis and Angélique, the
other two scents in the Papillon collection. Lying in bed the other evening
under the influence of yet another round of woozy antibiotics I was drifting in
Liz’s rosaceous world and decided Tobacco
Rose was the perfume for the wanton Lady Skelton from the very popular 1945
Gainsborough film The Wicked Lady,
starring the ravishing and erotic Margaret Lockwood. Indeed her cleavage was
deemed so risqué many of her balcony scenes
were re-shot for US audiences. Based on the novel
The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall, the
film tells the racy and voluptuous story of a bored and amoral landowner’s wife
who revels in the life of a criminal on the open roads as the doxy of a
renowned highwayman, played by the silver-tongued James Mason, preferring it to
the stifling conformity of marriage, constricting dresses and duty. It is still
a shocking film in many ways, she kills, betrays and dies alone, but the
excitement and sexuality of her freedom is thrillingly displayed. The image of
Lockwood’s beautiful eyes over her mask is a powerful and unforgettable image.
Tobacco Rose is Lady Barbara Skelton, a thrilling ride
from conformity; she is an overtly sexual creature, a gameplayer, leathered,
dangerous and uncompromising. The dirtiness of the rose is gorgeous, rubbed and
daubed, a hot echo of saddle and ridden skin. For me, the blooms are kept
beautifully in check by the beeswax/honey; this was a very clever addition. It
happens to be one of my favourite notes in perfumery, but can sometimes get
lost in the constructions. Here it has been spread through as if with a golden
knife, ecclesiastical and sweet. The whiff of hive and wing is rendered with fleeting
subtlety beneath the stained glass light of the roses.
and immortelle (Helichrysum) deepen the smoke and leather ambience of Tobacco Rose, reinforcing the late night
inn and ridden leather aspect of the scent. Immortelle often has licquorice and
burnt dark sugar tones, but here is has echoes of its maquis scrubbiness, dry and gorse-like with a yellow waxen tug
beneath the aridity.
themselves (Centifolia and Damascena), the blooms that drove Liz to olfactory
distraction are fused with skill and determination. The blooms are playful,
slutty and coy, a delicate balancing act to pull off. The Damascena rose is
lustier, more crepuscular, the Centifolia more delicate and reserved. Together
they balance and bolster each other’s strengths and weaknesses to produce an
ornate, perfumed vintage of heady carmine excess with lovely facets of clove,
gasoline and blooded earth. I asked Liz about her use of roses and difficulties
she encountered while created Tobacco
Rose. A lot of problems stemmed from the use of the rose otto (Rosa Damascena).
It is a notoriously volatile material to use. To use Liz’s own fabulous words
on rose otto: ‘I love this gal, but she a
bitch to work with.’ The measurements have to be perfection; too little and
the crushed velveteen texture of the oil is lost amid the sea of other notes,
too much and the rose facet edges into mulchy verdigris and dead fridge
vegetables. Liz said she had added a small amount of galbanum to suggest
greenery, a leaf effect if you like for the flowers to rest on.
bitch was tamed (eventually) and Liz got her sexy dirty smeared rose. Easily
for boys and girls, Tobacco Rose
adapts itself to different skins, deepening, flirting and smoking as and when
required. I wore it on a chilled January evening and it smelled like a
particular Turkish rose jam I’m rather partial to, tactile and sugared with a
shockingly heady bouquet. On a friend it smelled like charred blooms, much more
catholic than I imagined. This shape shifting is good scent to me; the perfumer
has used notes to anticipate difference and individuality. I love the jammy thing;
it stays with me for days as persistent as trashy neon pop.
fragrances in Liz’s triptych are just as sumptuous and sexy. I love Angélique; it’s a deceptively simple
assembly of cedar, osmanthus, white champaca, mimosa and orris. I am not generally
an osmanthus fan; it’s a pretty meh
note for me… so I was expecting a pristine softness, woody powder with perhaps
a kiss of floral ambiguity. But it is so much more than this. Angélique is the perfumed tale of a pretty,
barefaced girl, walking in a spring park. Dressed in white she seems chaste and
pure. A sudden downpour reveals her skin, inked with turbulent motifs. Everything
the keynotes in Angélique is mimosa, a
very French note in my olfactory lexicon; Côte d’Azur roads and sea breezes
tugging at the sweet waxen yellow blossoms. I always smell salt and puffs of
dust with mimosa; it’s just an automatic association. Liz has blended this most
Grace Kelly of blooms with tremendous elegance, marrying it to the soothing tea
tones of osmanthus, another note that can sometimes drown under the weight of
expectation. Angélique is French for angelica,
a member of the fennel family. It imparts a whiff of aniseed to scent and in
the drydown of this sophisticated scent, there is definitely a bite of
something anisic over the ground of woods and violaceous drift of orris. I had
it on the pulse point of my right wrist as I wandered off into dreamland, I
imagined Angélique to be sticky and peculiarly
hush-hush and smiled….
was the ancient Egyptian god associated with the funeral rites of mummification
and the journeys of the afterlife. His distinctive jackal-headed avatar makes
him one of the most easily recognisable of the large panoply of Egyptian
deities. Anubis was also present at the ‘Weighing of the Heart’, a ceremony
where the heart was weighed against a feather representing truth. If the heart
outweighed the feather the soul was destroyed. It’s an intriguing name for a
fragrance, but that’s what Liz has named the third scent in her collection.
Anubis is a sueded oriental shrugged jauntily over a
supple layer of saffron and jasmine that smells divinely spiced and febrile as
it blooms on skin. Liz has used immortelle again, this time for its sombre
tobacco-like aroma that mingles so alluringly with the olibanum and bitter
cistus lying provocatively in the base. A basmati rice facet rises through the
notes and simmers gently into the drydown, warm and sweet and very comforting.
It’s an artful and creative composition; streamlined and blended with an eye
for effect, drama and beauty. Each of the notes has its place yet they lock
into one another and move smoothly, blurring themselves into a perfect perfume
rhythm. I have smelt a number of niche scents recently where the notes,
beautiful as they are, seem to be spinning in air, unable to connect to other
elements in the formulae. The simplicity hurts.
What I love
about this particular scent is that it’s not a slavish Egyptian style oriental per
se but homage to the idea of Egypt.
It’s a little like the huge mania that gripped the world for all things
Egyptian after the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922.
Fragrances, jewellery, fashions, movies and literature were all influenced by
the obsession for Egyptology, mingled with the then art style of Art Deco. Everybody
wanted an echo of the Old Kingdoms, the style, golden and monumental, the
mummies, the treasures, pyramids and strange gods. But on Western, sanitised
terms, safe and gorgeous, far removed from the reality of canopic jars and
Anubis is an Egyptian dream scent, a fantasy of
influences and scented outcomes. I have moved away from orientals in the last
five years or so, I just can’t take a chance with the severity of my migraine
attacks. I used to adore them and drowned in their effulgence. As the god once
weighed the human heart for worthiness, Anubis
balances out decadence with pragmatism, sex with promises, reality with molten
Tobacco Rose is my pick of Liz Moore’s three wonderful
fragrances, but then I am biased about all things rosaceous. It is an earthy, slutty
rose and such a delight to find a scent that makes me examine again my love for
this most fickle harlot of floral design. I am wearing it again tonight in the
still of a dimly lit room. My apartment is exquisitely quiet. I am beautifully
tired and my wrists smell of cigars stubbed out in rose jam. How bloody
fantastic is that…?
Liz will be launching her three Papillon
fragrances on June 21st 2014, Midsummer’s Day which Liz hopes (and I
do too…) will be an auspicious day for her and Papillon. I wish her all the
luck in the world.