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

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Vigil (Watch Over Me When I am Gone) – ‘Lys 41’ by Le Labo

Know only this—I suffer, yet I rest;
For all my cares and fears are cast away,
And more than this I know not how to say;
Forgotten though I be, I own it best
And ’mid the lilies lie in perfect rest.

From Forgotten Among the Lilies by Augusta Theodosia Drane (1823-1894)

I am still restlessly searching for a lily soliflore that will arrest my heart.  Something white, tainted and morbid, thickly indolic, rising creamily from drowsy skin to mourning senses.

My beloved Lily & Spice, that weird and cherished skin-close, bone-white sheath of Madonna lily, vanilla and saffron was summarily executed by Penhaligon’s for underperforming despite the fact that Mathilde Bijaoui’s campheraceous ghost bloom was one of the House’s most unique and beautiful fragrances. I do revel in Mathilde Laurent’s carnal, giddying Baiser Volé, an architectural portrait of lilies in water and glass; leaves, stems and pistils refracted through glassy expanses of white aroma. The recent flanker, Baiser Volé Essence enriched the original with an enormously seductive rush of golden, honeyed vanilla and was simply intoxicating; a perfume drawing admirers to the woozy floral flame like stunned, drunken moths.

I have tried so many lily scents over the years; loved some (Donna Karan’s Gold, Louanges Profanes by Parfumerie Générale, Un Lys Méditérraneé by Editions Frédéric Malle, Lys Soleia by Guérlain and the ravishing Lys Carmin by Van Cleef & Arpels), loathed a couple (Vierge de Fer and Un Lys, both by Serge Lutens) and been totally indifferent to most.

It’s the chill of the funeral parlour I’m looking for, the stillness of grief and observance. A vague air of antiseptic tightness, underpinning the seeping eroticism of wanton waxen blooms. I admire the mix of straight-laced and suggestive in the same elegantly turned flower; an innocence masking darker dirtier desires. I want them heaped around me, thrown up the walls when I am gone, doors must open on their petals, mourners crushing the alabaster flesh under foot as they stagger and gaze, blinded by blasted ivory expanses. The air will be thick with pollen and the sweet miasma of vanillic decay. Vases of whiteness on every table top and sill, blooms curling and arching like dancers in sun and shifting light. But there must also be stillness in the mix, a sense of detachment, enabling me to walk away, aloof and moved, storing images and emotions in careful rooms where sadness in extremis is permitted. 

Creating a lily soliflore with the perfect balance of decaying carnality and cold ceremony seems very difficult. Lily & Spice came close, but was a little tame in the end, lacking the full-blown radiation to burn the grass at grave’s edge. The enigmatic lily in Louanges Profanes lies wilted and sacrificed on a wooden altar, indolic persona blurred a little in ritual smoke. It is an incredible scent, the lily feels like a shadow on the skin, but it is a formula of softness, the elements blending like a murmured prayer. Baiser Volé Essence is a bedroom bloom, crushed and folded as bodies roll in electrifying silence. When I wear this, my skin vibrates with longing. Lys Carmin is a white light in darkness, a prayer for forgiveness as sin beckons. All of these are beautiful in their own ways and I love their facets and effects. But there was still a yearning in me for something.  

So a couple of weeks ago I realised I hadn’t really tried Le Labo’s Lys 41 properly apart from a fleeting encounter when it was first released alongside the metallic and strangely powdered Ylang 49. I had forgotten how visceral and meaty the lily effect is as it hits the skin, the sheer fleshiness of the full bloom is quite unnerving. It is this epidermal, creviced sluttiness I had been looking for, the remembrance that scent has form and libidinous curve. Lys 41 stretches every part of itself with languorous calculating intent.

Monday 19 May 2014

Doll Head Love – ‘Vanilla Marble’ by Agonist.

The definition of an agonist is a substance, especially a drug (……ahhhsweet scented narcotic…) capable of inducing a physiological response in a receptor. So you spray, inhale and smile, blush and dream…..perfect.

Agonist is the second Scandinavian house after Andrea Maack I have really fallen for recently. I have admired their deeply covetable haute-couture sculptured Kosta Boda glass flacons for ages, but the prices while undoubtedly reflective of the hand-crafted processes involved are pretty steep, upwards of 880 euros. They recently introduced a kind of ready-to-wear Spray Line, the juices housed in smart 50ml bottles priced at a far more reasonable 125 euros making these singular fragrances much more accessible.

Like Andrea Maack, Agonist is a house very much immersed in art and visual aesthetics. Their blog page is a waterfall of striking and captivating images that nourish and reflect the Agonist state of decorative mind. And like Andrea Maack, the balance is just right, gentle provocation and Nordic aloofness on one side; reflective and gorgeous olfactive play on the other. Both sides are needed to cancel out pretention and accusations of esoteric self-indulgence. The use of glass reinforces the Nordic chill and reserve of the fragrances. Glass is both forged of fire and yet immensely fragile. Cold to touch initially but warming up under finger tips. Glass is an oddly urgent medium in that it always demands to be touched, traced and cherished. In the case of Kosta Boda glass artist Åsa Jungnelius, the Agonist fragrances have inspired her to create the beautiful organic, glittering forms in startling hues of white black, blue and yellow. They resemble alien blooms, holding their secret aromas inside concealed wells, spouts, coils and crevices. 

I first tried the Agonist line in Liberty on a woolly day when the skies hurled shuddering rain across London. I had gone into buy Mr E a gift from Cire Trudon and sample Francis Kurkdjian’s beatific Lumière Noire, a scent which had haunted me since a previous visit. As usual the aggressive, overbearing staff in the perfume department who seem incapable of leaving you alone in case they miss a sale made the visit well nigh on unbearable. The sales and service in Liberty is often shocking unless you can find someone who has been there a long time and even then the poor things feel compelled to obey a new high impact go-get-em approach which is a reflection of new management not necessarily the individuals. Such a pity..anyway… I digress…

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Indelible Libertine Rose: Grandeur & Performance – ‘Rozy’(x2) by Vero.Profumo

Nobody knows this little Rose
by Emily Dickinson

Nobody knows this little Rose --
It might a pilgrim be
Did I not take it from the ways
And lift it up to thee.
Only a Bee will miss it --
Only a Butterfly,
Hastening from far journey --
On its breast to lie --
Only a Bird will wonder --
Only a Breeze will sigh --
Ah Little Rose -- how easy

For such as thee to die!

I don’t think I have waited for something with as much anticipation and imagining as I have for the latest chapters of Vero Kern’s lauded and perfumed life. I cannot perceive my life without her fragrances invading my senses, reminding me skin is for anointing and worship. My passions are Onda and Kiki with a steadily growing obsession for the Mito Extrait, a shockingly green carousel of champaca and magnolia lit from within by the most incredible sharp, oozing lemon note and mulchy, rutting galbanum, all crushed blooms and dank undergrowth. Quite an achievement and one that drips like ochre sap across the skin, exploding a thousand shimmering gardens in the brain.

Now we are spoiled like wayward, beautiful children. Vero has given us two fragrances; both Rozy but very different in tone. One is a lush, fruity eau de parfum, dramatic and sweetly animalic; the other is another of Vero’s Voile d’Extraits that sit somewhere between her eaux de parfums and her precious extraits. This voile version of Rozy is breath-taking, a mix of plasticised paint effects and heady medicinal roses and a vortex of fractured petals whirling in a compulsion of sexual promise.

I have been thinking about these two beautiful fragrances for days now, ever since they arrived from Bloom in London after Vero’s superstar visit to Oxana’s boutique on the 9th April. They were accompanied by the sweetest postcard from Vero herself, sending her kindest wishes to myself and my fellow Garçon Mr E. The reviews have been coming thick and fast from writers across the blogosphere; nearly all of them superlative in their praise for the skill and originality of Vero’s scented art.  

There is nothing quite like the provocative sensuality and bravura assemblage of Vero Kern’s work; wearing her perfumes is like slipping on the mantle of other worlds, other desires. Her work is alchemy pure and simple. Vero recently changed the rules of perfumery a little by releasing her fragrances in a new and unique strength she has called voile d’extrait (literally.. a veil of extract…).This is not Vero just creating a new concentration but also a new style and interpretation of her extraordinary fragrances.  The voiles offer a very stylised, almost abstracted view of both her concentrated eaux de parfums and her powerful pure extraits. Each voile reflects, compliments and contrasts its source material in subtle yet inventive ways. The Kiki Voile d’Extrait is gorgeous… now I adore the Kiki… best lavender EVER, all caramelised and sunny burn, but Vero has added oppoponax and cassis to the Voile which seems to just melt across the skin like a languid caress in a hot still field. And I think if I wore my Onda eau de parfum, Onda Extrait and my Onda Voile d’Extrait all together, the world might stop turning on its axis.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Facets of Flawless Love: ‘Rose Cut’ by Ann Gerard

Esxence 2014 took place in March and many of the world’s most revered niche houses and perfumers laid out their scented wares, showcasing their latest launches or teasing us with promises of things to come. New houses show exciting and dynamic new scents, friends meet and mingle, and distributors carefully decide whose glorious juice they wish to promote to the world.

Niche and artisanal perfumery is a relatively small incestuous mix of ideas and olfactory rivalries. But the artistic impact of what comes out of the scented cauldron should never be underestimated. Mainstream trends will follow in two, maybe three years. Smaller houses react more viscerally and pertinently to the zeitgeist, to the sexuality of the now. The reportage and coverage of these niche perfume gatherings can err a little on the fawning side from time to time, but this is due to the familiarity of the major players and the solidarity of the scented brethren. Woven into this is the very fluid and fruitful role of blogger and fragrance writer. Many of these women and men have built up tremendously close working relationships with brands, brand owners, perfumers and boutique owners, this works for everyone, providing of course there is full disclosure of source and intent etc. It is a close community where people are proud to have access to the things they love.

I am one of these people, a writer whose duel passion for words and fine fragrance has allowed me to build a strong singular network of extraordinarily gifted people whose multitudinous skills bring me immense joy and happiness. My respect for their commitment is reflected in the lack of negative reviews I post. I don’t believe in them. Writing negative prose makes me enormously sad and angry. It drains my spirit. I don’t wear fragrance I don’t like, so why should I bother writing about it. There are lots of other bloggers prepared to put the knife in and puncture launches. Each to their own, everyone is welcome to an opinion. I also buy the fragrance I blog on, it honours the perfumer and the work. Sampling may be a necessity sometimes, but when it comes to actually sitting down and writing a piece, a committed bottle is required.   

This is an expensive love affair, this lifelong passion for scent, but the anticipation of the spend, the allocation of funds towards something sensual, decadent, gourmand, indolic, leathered, smoky, abstract, porny or just so damn fucking beautiful your heart breaks as the scent floods your senses… memories rise and fall, lovers come and go. For a moment you are lost in yourself, frozen in a world of suspended associations, linked by a lick of golden amber, damp rolled tobacco or the resinous plume of cathedral smoke.