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

Saturday 2 January 2016

Foxy Loves of 2015 - Part II (Dazzled & Delighted)

Alaïa Paris
Alaïa Paris – Alaïa

It did seem amazing that superstar Tunisian born designer Azzedine Alaïa had never launched a scent; but he was an unusual talent who oscillated between enormous publicity and intense reined in privacy. His clients who included some of the most famous women of the day such as Grace Jones, Tina Turner and Naomi Campbell are generally reluctant to discuss him personally except to reiterate how extraordinary his talent was and how special his clothes made them feel. Alaïa Paris was created by the sophisticated hand of Marie Salamagne in collaboration with Beauté Prestige International. Monsieur Alaïa had a specific if oblique brief; ‘a smell of cold water splashed on burningly hot whitewashed walls’. A memory perhaps of Tunisian heat and evaporation. For such a short proposal it is arresting enough and the resulting parfum is one of the most beguiling and enigmatic mainstream launches in years. It was initially exclusive to Harrods but now widely available. The Paolo Roversi campaign and gorgeous Martin Szekely bottle with its black opaque glass design (with incised motifs echoing the laser cut leather of Alaïa’s cult collections) and a cap resembling a spool of golden thread only added to the luxe impression of Alaïa’s debut scent. The vague list of generic pink pepper, freesia, peony, animal notes and musks was interesting but not as much as Alaïa’s dictate that no one note should be detectable over another. On paper this sounds relatively easy. Yet from an olfactory and technical point of view it is incredibly demanding. During development, BPI and Salamagne honed and smoothed the complexities until this exquisite cold, mineralised consistency was achieved. I am on my third bottle of this strange, indefinable scent already; much is its moreish power. There is both luminosity and fade to the mix; I love the way the musks cling close, while the overall impression is one of disconcerting allure. As the lines and edges continue to blur and shift between niche and certain perfumers working in mainstream scent, Alaïa Paris is a sublime (and price accessible) reminder of luxurious high street beauty. 


Salome – Papillon Perfumery

After three very beautiful and remarkably assured debut perfumes, (including my beloved fetish Tobacco Rose), Liz Moores astonished us with the absolute control and subversive danger of Salome, a scent that in many ways was her alter ego in raging, seductive, raucous joy. The dubious yet potent myth of Salome is many things to many people and of course a perfect subject for scent; a vessel of purity called upon to dance provocatively, to use her body and sexual dominion to seduce an enemy and call for the head of a sacred man. I loved reviewing Salome; I wore Liz’s salacious, precious work each time I made notes in my crumbling notebooks. I was lucky enough to sample an early mod and live with it blind as it were, with no precise awareness of notes. It was shocking then, feral and thrashed with a filthy rose/carnation pairing that Liz amplified in the final version redolent with golden jasmine. Everything trembled in the shadow of Liz’s daring handling of African Stone or Hyraceum, the pissy, fur-damp, faecal-treacle animalic wowzer of a basenote. Fuck. This stuff is amazing. Ok, it’s not for everyone; I’ve seen people go white and sweat at the smell of it. I love it. We can thank the über-weird hyrax and its complex toileting habits for it. The tincture is astonishing. Only Liz Moores could have blended Salome this well, the porno-ache ferocity of the base notes, burnished by patchouli writhing through the dense petalform study of dandified carnation, indolic jasmine and that rose...such a brutal rose. I know Liz has a complex relationship with roses, but the war is worth it when the juice is this outrageously lovely. Of course Salome is a modern scent, made by a woman of beauty, glittering talent and huge heart, yet there is also a dark echo of old olfaction, the skank of bygone Caron, murdered Guerlains. This is Liz’s great skill, the sensuous mix of personal desires and imagination with an acute awareness of what has come before. Bravo my love. 


Rosenthal - Hendley Perfumes

New York based Hans’ background is in photography, more specifically lomography, with its associative arresting moods and creamy immediacy. His perfumed work is gracefully artisanal, crafted with care and immense attention to how the notes will flourish on skin. The relative simplicity of his work belies the amount of time and effort Hans invests in every stage of his perfumes; from the creation of the juice to the labels, boxes, website and Hendley Perfumes sealing wax on the packaging. I loved Fume, a throaty, fuggy forest scent that has an oddly menacing medicinal vibe as it rests on flesh. Galbanum, vetiver and oakmoss wreathe the notes like night fog. But it was Rosenthal that held me and never really let go. I love my rose scents with a serious passion and Guerlain’s Nahéma blooms at the heart of this passion. The announcement this year that Guerlain are axing it horrified me. But I have Rosenthal; it is an enormous photo-realistic rose that explodes out of the bottle like blood-stained fire. It smells both instantly visceral, like a storm smashed garden of trembling roses while somehow smelling weirdly manufactured, plasticised and brutally jammy. This dissonance is vital to the success of Rosenthal. It is dirty, both in an earthy, soil sense but also in a coital, grasping sense. Patchouli and a great chewy anisic angelica note solidify the claret-red boom of the rose. The woody note in the base is milky and cool, a reserved fade for a big bloom. Hans’ debut collection it so good it hurts, but Rosenthal moved me and made me feel so damn wide-eyed and fine.

Neandertal Dark & Light

Neandertal Light – Kentaro Yamada

My friend Euan McCall made this and it’s beautiful. I knew it would be. No bias, he is a great olfactory artist in the making. Self taught and ruthlessly self-critical, Euan has been quiet assembling a tough and diverse skillset, honed and crafted through endless mods, experimental accords and a desire to really see inside his materials. There are two versions of Neandertal, a Dark and a Light incarnation, both of them beautiful flinted atmospheric interpretations of Japanese designer Kentaro Yamada’s somewhat esoteric brief. The scent is preoccupied with how Neanderthal man if walking the earth today might interpret the demands and effects of contemporary perfume, taking into account how unique their olfactory system was. Their connection to landscape, weather, soil and each other demanded a different level of sensory perception. This compelling and abstract idea has driven Euan’s haunting and selvedge construct. Using high impact steroidal materials odorants such as cashmeran, sandalwood, musks and ambergris allied to carefully calibrated saffron, ginger and a glorious caraway CO2 absolute he has created a rarefied and demanding formula. The lighter version has wonderful salted metal effects and solar flares switched in, replacing some of the weightier ouds and patchoulis in the Dark version. He has used his citrus oils wisely in the top to paint a pale sky reflecting the flinted spoor below. The bottle is amazing, a hand-cast ceramic knapped flacon, inspired by Neolithic spear and axe head techniques. A white one for the Light version, Black for the Dark. For a debut scent, Neandertal is remarkable, smelling pungent and leftfield, I find myself craving the flint note like a drug. When I wrote my review, I knew it would be personal. I am so proud of him it hurts. 

Sogno Reale

Sogno Reale – Menditterosa Odori d’Anima

My friend and loyal foxy blog follower Jakub (he’s been with me since the very beginning) very kindly send me samples of the Mendittorosa line, a collection of fragrances dreamt up by the eccentric and passionate Stefania Squeglia. The brand launched in 2012 and there are now seven fragrances directed vibrantly by Stefania and brought to life by Amélie Bourgeois and Ann-Sophie Behaghel at FLAIR in Paris. As soon as I read about Stefania’s Sogno Reale, a scent she literally dreamt into being I wanted to smell it; I was so intrigued by the concept of marrying a mer-musk fantasy with the chthonic, feral animalic tang of hyraceum. And yet this mix of sea-urchin theatrics, rum-soaked woods, damp patchouli and tuberose is just sensational. A weird medical hit of iodine to suggest the sea is both macabre and sexy at the top of Sogno Reale and while it may dampen down it never fades from the olfactory page. The crisp crush of lemon echoes towering seafood platters on salt-swept restaurant patios overlooking bleak and troubled seas. There is sweetness, salinity, acidity and enigma in Amélie Bourgeois’ complex and divisive formula. I find Sogno Reale amazing, a scent of sensual disturbance that thrills me each time I wear it. The smeared traces of hyraceum are more subtle than the penetrating explosion in Liz Moore’s biblical porn-bomb Salome, but this most distinctive of materials still manages to leer suggestively out of the shadows. Stefania is a force of nature and her perfumes reflect her relentless curiosity of spirit and mirror the world around her in her own inimitable eccentric heartfelt style. Sogno Reale is gauzy, rich and weird, a scent of collisions and complements, coldly oceanic in places and yet cosy and pelty in others, an abstract leather facet so soft as to be almost a dream. A jewel of perfumery.


Misia – Les Exclusifs de Chanel 

Did the perfume world really need another lipstick scent? Probably not. But oh lord Misia smells divine. A luxurious, voluptuous entwining of diaphanous iris, orris, Turkish rose, Grasse rose and violet over Laotian benzoin and tonka bean; it is powdered 1920’s boudoir incarnate. I love a lipstick accord, the fatty luscious kiss of rose and violet mixed with vanilla, tonka, orris and musks. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Drôle de Rose is one of my favourites, a delicate memory rose, the scented equivalent of rose-tinted spectacles. Etat Libre D’Orange’s Putain de Palace is the slutty flipside to this, the Belle de Jour carnality, smeared and dangerous. Misia is the aristocratic beauty, trailing her subtle yet devastating charms through cold marbled halls, past gilt frames and silent footmen. It is the work of Olivier Polge, his debut perfume for Chanel; his father Jacques Polge has been in house perfumer for Chanel since 1978. Olivier is of course most well known for his magnificent Dior Homme and I adore his much-neglected Midnight in Paris for Van Cleef and Arpels. He is an erratic nose and some of his work is irritatingly repetitive or just below par. Misia got mixed reactions, it is perhaps a tad safe, but it smells so damn exquisite on the skin, I don’t care. The sensation of glittering icy fur as the opulent top notes rise off ecstatic skin is delicious; I could spray and repeat for this alone. The roses are rich and carmine stained, dusted with the faintest blush of budding dawn. That fatty, chewy waxen heft of classic vintage lipstick is echoed in the bruised violet overlay. The iris and orris root fill the formula like pale ballet dust catching sunlight in a vacated boudoir. But Misia is all about control and aloofness in the careful, poudre drydown. Misia Sert was a classical pianist and salon hostess in Paris who formed a close friendship with Coco Chanel that lasted decades. This truly lovely vintage style Exclusif from Olivier Polge at Chanel is a fitting and fabulously atmospheric tribute to a fascinating woman. It is a scent I desperately want to have an affair in which sounds outrageous.. but it’s a perfume for clandestine skin, hotel room shadows and the heave of guilt. A must have I think for any serious lover of romance and Chanel.  


Panorama – Olfactive Studio 

2015 was the year I finally fell in big love with Olfactive Studio after kinda being a bit meh about for them for a while. I liked the concept a lot, a collaboration between Céline Verleure’s clever heartfelt house, a photographic image and a perfumer inspired by said image. A little arch perhaps, but no more so than many other niche brands on the market inspired by random subjects.. blood, Argentine flora etc. I had tried the brand before and wandered away, intrigued but not quite in love. Then one day I fell hard for the dark shadows of Ombre Indigo and the rubbered sticky burn of the settling. I toyed with Flashback too; Olivier Cresp’s lovely oddly melancholy granny smith apple and rhubarb scent but then Clément Gavarry’s Panorama just dazzled me. The inspirational image was Miguel Sandinha’s sci-fi infused image of the iconic Sheats Goldstein house in LA, an angular masterpiece, set into lush cradled land but also jutting out bravely into the LA air over the tropical morass below. Designed by John Lautner and built between 1961 and 1963, it is one of the most elegant and distinctive pieces of 60s architecture in the world. The image shows the assembly of glass and concrete soaring into the sun-drenched air. The big shock of Panorama and was its incredible wasabi note, a genuine, fiery, green, scraped explosion of innovation I’ve never smelled before. Marshy, piquant and metallic clean. Mulchy galbanum, bamboo and fig reinforce the verdancy as Clément stirs things up by hurling a splash of neon violet across the mix and squeezing lemon juice over the top. Like the structure itself, the scent plays with notions of form, light, texture and unexpected tensions. Fir balsam and myrrh close down Panorama with great tenderness; a slight smokiness rises up, mingling with a pale vanilla and odd grey musks. This is how to do green. The technical achievement of Panorama is brilliant, the wasabi note, nature identical and seriously moreish. Céline and Clément had created a very clever and intelligent piece of olfaction that I think is the best Olfactive Studio creation to date.

©TheSilverFox 02 January 2016


  1. Oh, I want to smell Misia; something I haven't thought twice about until reading these fantastic reviews!

    1. i came to this late... but now I'm obsessed with it...