Monthly Archives: August 2013

Von Eusersdorff ‘Classic Vetiver’

vetiver

In this penultimate review of the Von Eusersdorff classic four collection, I will be swimming in the depths of ‘Classic Vetiver’.

I have previously talked about the sophistication of ‘Classic Patchouli’ and the perfect dream that is ‘Classic Mimosa’. Von Eusersdorff have set a very high bench mark for themselves and with a little more time there will be even more of a buzz about what they are up to. Scent is such a subjective thing and everyone’s taste will be different. What you cannot deny is that quality and skill shines through, regardless of personal taste. Von Eusersdorff do scent-making extremely well. They are not thrill seekers, these perfumes are in no way avant-garde or edgy. But they are, or so I believe, going to reach the status of ‘Modern Classic’ perfumes one day soon.

I appreciate Von Eusersdorff’s uncomplicated simplicity. There is no need to dress these perfumes up in allure and mystique in order to make them what they are. they just are. That is impressive.

There are many, many scents within the niche market that are surrounded by hype, some I have loved wholeheartedly and some have left me perplexed, even though everyone is gushing about them. Von Eusersdorff are not trying to convey some complex message, nor are they jumping on the latest trend wagon. I feel reassured by that somehow and I find all the perfumes in the Classic collection to be unapologetically understated, with wonderful clarity.

Fascinated as I am by olfactory art, it has it’s place and sometimes all a girl wants to find is a perfume she can actually wear! I know that I will return time and again to ‘Classic Patchouli’, it has really stolen my heart. For now though, let us turn towards ‘Classic Vetiver’….

This I found to be a perfume of polarities. Wet and dry, warm and cool. The opening scene is of chilled citrus juices flung onto hot pavements. The bitter twists of grapefruit and lemon burst instantly onto my skin with masculine assurance, warming and cooling at the same time with a kick of black pepper. Vetiver is unmistakably present too, like damp green mulch steaming slightly after a summer downpour. I can quite clearly picture a group of men in their shirt sleeves sitting outside a bar, when a sudden shower causes everyone to run for cover, upsetting their drinks onto the warm concrete. I usually try not to split fragrance into categories, but for me ‘Classic Vetiver’ is unequivocally a masculine cologne.

Once the initial splash of sharp citrus has calmed the vetiver becomes more prominent. It has a definite damp, woodiness to it and it pulls the fragrance from fresh into humid. Like the air in the city after a summer storm. Resinous elemi amplifies the green qualities, as does geranium. ‘Classic Vetiver’ develops into a mulchy, pulpy, leafy thing which is a little stifling after all that zingy fruit.

The fragrance stays this way for a little over an hour before starting to slowly dry off. Delicious black patchouli, with it’s sticky dark power, warms up at the base of the fragrance and allows a slow burn of cedarwood to permeate the humidity. When this starts to happen it lifts the perfume back out of the murky depths and allows a slight fruitiness to appear. The presence of the patchouli gives the whole perfume a much needed boost and holds it there for the remainder of it’s life on my skin.

‘Classic Vetiver’ was the most short-lived of the collection so far. I have a notoriously bad track record with citruses, sometimes burning up a perfume within 30 minutes of applying it to my skin. Here the longevity is aided by the persistent vetiver that works hard to stay centre stage for the whole duration, and also the patchouli, which really helps to warm and smooth out vetiver’s murky tendencies. I was able to cling on to this scent for about three hours before it evaporated into nothing.

The grapefruit and lemon at the beginning are so cool and true that I can almost taste them, which is lovely. The dryness and warmth at the end from the patchouli and cedar is comforting and smooth. But I struggled a little with the main body of the perfume, mostly because I just don’t really like vetiver. It doesn’t work on my skin, the dampness is too clinging and humid for my tastes.

I knew I was not going to have an easy time with this perfume, unlike the others from the Von Eusersdorff collection. But ‘Classic Vetiver’ should still be praised for being true to it’s namesake. It has very green depths and sparkling heights and with vetiver stewing in it’s heart it will be some people’s immediate joy. Alas not mine, I will fall back into the arms of my beloved ‘Classic Patchouli’.

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Von Eusersdorff ‘Classic Mimosa’

Mimosa

I am currently on a journey around the olfactory delights of the Von Eusersdorff Classic collection. I started a few days ago with the effortless sophistication of ‘Classic Patchouli’. Now it is the turn of ‘Classic Mimosa’.

To quickly re-cap, Von Eusersdorff has an impeccable history in the trade of oils, herbs and petals for the perfume industry. The German family name has now been resurrected as a fragrance brand with direct descendant Camille Henfling and his creative team as the genius behind it. The company has since launched five perfumes, ‘Classic patchouli’, ‘Classic Vetiver, ‘Classic Myrrh’ and ‘Classic Mimosa’, then most recently ‘Classic Orange’. In this series of reviews I will be talking about the original four.

After the masterful power of ‘Classic Patchouli’ I was excited to see what Von Eusersdorff would do with mimosa, an airy soft baby of a floral….

‘Classic Mimosa’ opens with a blast of citrus wrapped in the cleanest cotton sheets. I am immediately drawn into an imaginary morning in a house by the sea, the sun shining and little clouds scooting happily across the pale blue sky. The tide is out, the sand is pristine and in the garden the line is strung with the morning’s clean washing.

White sheets, white sand, blue sky, green sea. In the window stands a porcelain jug filled with palest pink roses and a dish of warm, crisp little madeleines are cooling next to a tall glass of cloudy lemonade….and so on.

I make a snap judgement in those first few seconds and I automatically assume that I know what kind of a perfume this is going to be. It appears to fall very firmly into the ‘clean’ category of scent and I am momentarily disappointed. There are so many mainstream fragrances in this already overcrowded group, in my opinion there is no need for yet another ‘laundry fresh’ clone. However, and I must stress this for anyone else who would judge it so, ‘Classic Mimosa’ is much, much more than ‘just another clean perfume’. I’ll try to explain why.

After the citrusy freshness comes a green, slightly salty note that is very much like the idea of a perfectly clear, aqua coloured sea. The whole fragrance develops in this fairytale manner. It’s like a photograph of a holiday you wish you could take. It is misty lensed and rose tinted. I want to use the term ‘hyper-real’ but that wouldn’t be right, ‘Classic Mimosa’ is more idealistic in it’s representation of each note. The salty marine is perfect blue/green, the citrus is light as air and not in the least bit sticky or sharp. There is a gorgeous floral accord of roses and violet that smells exactly like a pre-raphaelite painting of roses and violets, if you understand what I mean. The petals seem to drift in and out and all around in a sheer but perfectly detailed performance.

Mimosa comes out to play in the form of clean, dry cotton. Not soapy or laundryesque, just absolutely clean, floating, soft soft fabric. It is enriched with musks and vanilla and these help to add just a little bit of weight -but not too much sweetness- to this feather light fragrance. Yet here again something a little bit dream-like happens. ‘Classic Mimosa’ gives every impression of being super fine and gauzy, but it has a lot of presence and an impressive sillage for a scent of this type. I applied a moderate smear to my wrist, went out and about all day and I can still catch it’s ending melody this evening.

This perfume has been created using the lightest of magic brush strokes, capturing a perfect, scented scene from a wistful daydream. It has a distinctly photoshopped quality to it, which is not to say that it smells overly artificial. The quality of the product is clear and this seems to be the theme running through Von Eusersdorff fragrances. It is about taking something quite simple and doing it very, very well.

As I have said in the past, I do not have an impressive back catalogue of comparisons to draw from, so I wouldn’t like to venture an opinion on whether this is a great mimosa fragrance specifically, but what I can say is that this a truly great fresh/floral fragrance, one of the best I have come across.

Just like ‘Classic Patchouli’, ‘Classic Mimosa’ smells of wealth. This is a perfume to wear at your villa in the south of France while you stand at the balustrade, wrapped in an exquisite Egyptian cotton dressing gown with french lace trim, looking out over the sparkling ocean and sipping a mimosa cocktail for breakfast. It is perfectly crafted and finished, there are no odd tweaks here to surprise you and again it is better for it. This is a highly crafted perfume, sleek, chic and artfully poised. It has the same rounded quality that I found in ‘Classic Patchouli’, and also an impressive restraint. Randomly, and for no scent related reason at all, I am reminded of fine gold jewellery as I wear this perfume. I think it is the timeless high status that gold will always represent, that status which is also at play in this scent.

This could so easily have been a flippant, girly nothing of a fragrance but the refined balance of notes and the considered simplicity take it to another level. I can imagine a lot of women, and men, falling head over heels for ‘Classic Mimosa’ because it has all the fresh, clean linen and sheer floral veils that are so popular, only done with real sophistication. It is not a scent which I personally would chose to wear for myself right now, but I have enjoyed reviewing it greatly. There is no denying that it is a masterfully created perfume.

Von Eusersdorff ‘Classic Patchouli’

Patchouli

Von Eusersdorff is a surname that has resonated within the archives of perfume history for nearly three centuries. The German family have a prestigious past in the world-wide trade of rare oils, herbs, spices and petals and now the name has appeared again.

Camille Henfling, descendant of Von Eusersdorff lineage and former businessman, felt a powerful calling to go back to his roots and re-discover his family’s heritage. He didn’t do it by halves either. Moving to Grasse and taking with him some of the secret formulas discovered in the archives, he spent three years learning how to build fragrances. Gradually putting together a skilled team who he still works with today, the Von Eusersdorff brand was launched afresh. The first perfume to be presented was ‘Classic Patchouli’, followed by ‘Classic Myrrh’, ‘Classic Vetiver’ and ‘Classic Mimosa’ in 2011. The most recent release is ‘Classic Orange’, but in these reviews I will be talking about the original four.

I didn’t know what to expect from these fragrances. They certainly look great, very sleek and expensive looking. Apparently the aesthetics and feel of the fragrances are inspired by New York, where the creative team behind the brand are based.

I knew that Von Eusersdorff have an impeccable lineage in the perfume world, but as this was in trading father than fragrance making I was interested to see what these four so called ‘classic’ scents would be like. As contemporary and chic as their wrappings, or classical and historical as their names and the heritage of the family behind them would suggest?

In a series of four reviews, I’ll be taking a journey with each of these perfumes. It is only fitting that we start with ‘Classic Patchouli’. As the first fragrance to be launched from Von Eusersdorff, it has quickly won fans in both Amsterdam and New York.

I will admit to previously not being the biggest fan of patchouli in perfume. For me the essential oil most associated with the hippy movement of the 1960’s has a nostalgia that is almost palpable. I am too young to have been there first time around but I went through a phase as a teenager in the 90’s when hippy style came back into fashion. I burned patchouli oil in my bedroom, listened to the Velvet Underground and purchased an amazing sheepskin coat that I pretty much wore everywhere. I wanted so much to go back there and experience it for myself, everyone seemed to be having such an amazing time. But it never sat completely comfortably with me and I soon moved on. The smell of patchouli oil usually just whisks me straight back to my teenage bedroom. It is a complex aroma and any young girl with a nose more used to Impulse body sprays is going to struggle with it. I thought I was being really cool at the time but the reality was that I just didn’t like the smell that much.

Since then I have come across patchouli many more times, either being burnt as incense in head shops or used in natural beauty products. It is instantly recognisable and always the same, green, bitter-sweet and slightly woody. I have never before come across it used in a way that does not shout ‘new-age and maybe a bit hairy’, so I was really wondering how Von Eusersdorff, with all their  immaculate class and sophistication, had created a fragrance based around it whilst managing to keep it firmly on the straight side of the beaded curtain.

‘Classic Patchouli’ opens with an elegantly powerful swell of woods, unusual as a first impression but very intriguing, sandalwood with a lovely, textural creaminess and the merest hint of smoke. Then in rolls a boozy, whiskey fire that warms my nostrils but doesn’t scorch them. It is extremely controlled yet striking start and I am instantly appreciative of the quality of ingredients at work here.

The patchouli arrives after a few minutes and I am so very pleasantly surprised at her appearance that I am unsure at first whether it is really her. This is black patchouli and as such has none of that bushy greenness that I have smelt so many times before. This patchouli is rich and smooth and unctuously chewy, with a slightly soapy corona around her. Intermingled with citrusy bergamot the combination is pure class and not in the least reminiscent of crystals and flared jeans.

The element of this perfume that is most beautiful to me is the presence of vanilla and tonka bean. I love tonka with it’s sweet, buttery, rounded aesthetic and vanilla that tickles your taste buds. Here they are not gourmand, but they bring a wonderful, rounded finish to the fragrance, smoothing any rough edges and bestowing a deep, warm, cashmere cape around the shoulders of the patchouli. All the elements of this fragrance are finished so well and quality simply oozes from my skin when I wear it. This, in my mind, is how an extremely wealthy, well bred and cultured person should smell. Effortless, tailored and polished to a lustrous glow.

‘Classic Patchouli’ fits to the skin like a fur-lined, designer leather glove. It smells expensive and has an impressive sillage, lasting hours on my skin. There are very few surprises once the fragrance has developed, but I am grateful for this, the fullness and sophistication resonate so truly that change is unnecessary. This is a celebration of carefully chosen elements all singing in perfect harmony together, any shift in key would take away from the clarity of it’s voice. This perfume needs to be lingered over like a fine wine.

I have re-evaluated my opinion of patchouli since experiencing this fragrance. I’m impressed with the balance of restraint and power with which it has been used here and I will definitely be wearing this perfume again. It is timelessly elegant, completely un-gendered and effortlessly cool. A fabulous perfume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vero.Profumo ‘Onda’

onda eau onda extrait

With all the praise currently being rained down on Vero Kern for her exceptional collection of perfumes, it would be very silly of me not to jump on the band wagon and try them for myself. I had the pleasure of sampling ‘Mito’ a few months ago, but that is a review for another day. Today it is the turn of ‘Onda’.

Vero Kern has produced some truly astonishing scents, most notable for their ‘hot skin’ qualities. Kern talks about her values on the Vero.Profumo website, saying

 “I go my own way hundred percent and do not follow any trends. I’m looking for originality, opulence and eroticism in scents. They have to surprise and to touch me. I’m not interested in ‘clean’ scents; I need characterful scents both in my creations but also as wearer. Beside this, I love everything that reminds of the smell of skin.”

I have tried both the extrait and eau de parfum and I had such a contrasting experience that I feel I need to talk about both equally. Let us start with the eau de parfum….

A garden, overgrown bows drooping with blooms, sits on a clifftop, the sea far below crashing onto the rocks. Salt drifts on the breeze to this haven, tucked away from the strong wind by tall trees. The sun is warm, a myriad of insects buzz all around. In the garden there is a couple, bare skin tanned light golden and hair tangled from salt spray. They eat fresh bread dripping with honey and lick it from each other’s fingers. A thousand years could pass and these two would not notice, intertwined as they are in this paradise. A perfect moment that stretches on and on forever….

It is difficult to write about a perfume that has been very extensively reviewed without hearing other  people’s descriptions in your head. The above paragraph is a mash up of lots of people’s thoughts on ‘Onda eau de parfum’, including my own. It is a fragrance that is so evocative of hot skin and honey and sea salt that it would be foolish to describe it any differently. However, I noticed a very marked different between the extrait and the eau, in both texture and depth, that the description above is really only a loose guideline. It think it must really depend on your personal skin chemistry.

‘Onda eau de parfum’ opens with a complexity that I have not before experienced on my scented journey so far. There is a wonderful, full bodied plume of floral notes and through them twists an unmistakable tang of salt. All is whirling and undefinable as the fragrance builds, sweetening in a  puff of pollen and fleshy petals. Underlying are woody green bows, springy and young, but not in the least bit sappy or resinous. It reminds me of snapping a twig in two and pulling at the stringy bark. This is only one fleeting thought before ‘Onda’ floats into another form, this time more animalic and musky, dusted with ground ginger.

After about fifteen minutes ‘Onda’ starts to ooze honey all over my wrist, sweet and slightly fetid as if I had dunked a ripe fig in golden nectar and squeezed it onto my skin. I swear I can catch lilac as well now, although it is not included in the note listing, maybe the combination of Ylang Ylang and honey create something akin to this powdered bee paradise. It is a powerfully visual aspect of the perfume at this point, I am sitting under the lilac trees, eating bread and honey while the bees dust their furry little bodies with purple pollen. That green, twiggy sensation has given way to a drier pile of fresh wood shavings and there is also a kind of slick… something, that I can’t put my finger on.

I can completely understand that incredible ‘hot skin’ thing that everyone finds in this perfume. It is the juicy, over-ripe passion fruit combined with the honey that creates it I’m sure. On my skin the powdery pollen is quite prevalent, as is always the case when an iris note is involved, and I am a little sad that I don’t get more of the juice. I have turned ‘Onda’ into warm talcum, rather than the flush of lust that I was hoping for. This being said, it is still sexy. It reminds me of the moment when you are just about to leave for an evening out with a new man, you are dressed to kill and smoothed, buffed and buttered to perfection (or as close as you can get anyway!) There is a real sense of anticipation in ‘Onda’, a shiver of delight and desires not yet met.

There was only one feature of the fragrance that I wasn’t sure I enjoyed and that was the animalic sweetness of the honey and passion fruit combined with the powdery iris. I’m gutted that this is how my skin reacted to this element, I can imagine others would find it ripe and delicious and sensual. Alas, it just did not do it for me. The extrait on the other hand… but we will get to that shortly.

The eau de parfum has enormous longevity. The closing moments were a dreamy, musky drift of petals, hours and hours after I first applied it. For all it’s long lasting qualities, it is a close scent, intimate as silk underwear. I was fascinated by the experience, but I am so glad that I had the extrait to try as well…

‘Onda extrait de parfum’ is dark, smooth leather, tanned with salt marsh whiskey, saturated in honey and hung over the fire to cure. Take that leather and fashion it into a corset, lace it tight with plum velvet ribbons, pin a lustrous white bloom in your hair and smooth yourself all over with organic cocoa butter. Then stalk out into the humid night like a predator, pin your prey to the ground and love him until he dies.

This is everything that the eau suggests and more besides. If the eau is sun kissed skin and honeyed fruit, then the extrait is hot night and smouldering embers. The elements of the perfumes are similar but in extrait form they are intensified and pure. There is also sandalwood in place of passion fruit and for me this makes all the difference. There is not a hint of fetid over-ripeness in ‘Onda extrait de parfum’, only leather and wood and dark honey, ornamented with night flowering blooms. Gone too is the powdery puff of iris, or at least I don’t detect it in the same way.

I have a surprising love of leather in fragrance and I didn’t get it at all in the eau de parfum. However the extrait opens with a rich, textural leather which is infused with smokey woods and dark flowers. The development of the scent is much slower and more languid, like dragging your hand through a vat of deepest amber honey. It is completely glorious. This remains at the heart of the extrait for the many hours that it lasts. If it were your lover there would be tantra involved. Occasionally there is a lighter waft of ylang and also rose, although I don’t know if that is just my interpretation of the floral accord. The honey also lightens towards the end, becoming more reminiscent of the pollen sweetness in the eau de parfum.

The is the one that smells of sex and skin for me. Not that pungent, post coital reek, but the moment when bodies fuse together in mutual lust, hot breath and clinging hands. It is the peak of an evening spent in anticipation. It is so preditory and single minded that it makes the eau de parfum look flirty and coy in comparison.

Now, I am not an overtly sexual person, so you would think that of the two I would choose the eau de parfum over the extrait. But the eau de parfum reminds me of all the things that are uncomfortable about the closeness of bodies, the man who is standing right up behind you at the bar after a long day in the sun. Or afternoons at a festival when the salty tang of hot skin starts to pervade the air, bare feet crushing discarded flower garlands and mushy fruit into the earth. The extrait is that pure, almost primal lust for closeness when all other thoughts have disappeared. It is smooth and rich and dark as midnight. Oiled skin and moist lips, breath sweet with honeyed mead. When you lose your inhibitions and crush yourselves together with a moan you are unaware you have uttered.

I am delighted by this contradiction. I tried the eau de parfum first and had begun to chastise myself for not being able to enjoy that animalic accord that so many others had raved about. I really wanted to love it and I was feeling a bit disappointed in myself. Thank god I had the extrait to try as well. It transformed my opinion of ‘Onda’ and I shall be bowing at the scented shrine of Vero Kern for ever more.

‘Onda’ is by no means an easy perfume to wear in either form, but it is one of those scents that will hook people in without their conscious knowledge. My husband didn’t know what to make of it when I thrust my wrist under his nose. He loved it and yet he didn’t. He said it smelt sexy but he couldn’t really say why. It is such an unusual combination of notes that unless you are a seasoned perfumista, or just brave, it may be a little too challenging. In some ways this increases it’s beauty. If you choose to wear ‘Onda’ you can rest assured that you will be in a minority, unless of course you are attending a niche perfume convention or some such, then everyone will be wearing it. If you touch a little to your throat you will be irresistible to anyone who stands very close to you, if you douse yourself in it you may end up recreating the ending of ‘Perfume’ by Patrick Suskind.

‘Onda’ is a must try, whether you think you will like it or not, because it is so educational. If it turns to pure sex on your skin then all the better.

Serge Lutens ‘Vitriol d’Oeillet’

Vitriol d'Oeillet

How I have been looking forward to introducing my nose to some Serge Lutens! As a beloved favourite over at Kafkaesque, this brand has had a lot of talented writing already dedicated to it. I have greatly enjoyed the reviews and had high expectations of the perfumes.

I am also hugely intrigued by Lutens himself. As a photographer, designer and visionary stylist, he has brought enormous success and a strong visual identity to brands such Shiseido and Doir. Photoshoots styled by Lutens appeared regularly in Vogue and Elle during the 60’s and 70’s and in 1982 he conceived his first perfume, ‘Nombre Noir’, for Shiseido. To quote the website;

 “While his first perfume marked the 1980’s, it was through his creation of Féminité du bois and Les Salons du Palais Royal in 1992 with their dreamlike décor, that Serge Lutens led his first true olfactory revolution in the field of perfume.

Fragrances like Ambre sultan, Tubéreuse criminelle, Cuir mauresque…     have since become indispensable, writing a new page in the History of Fragrances.”

Taking into consideration Monsieur Lutens incredible creative flair and talent for conceptual design, I was expectant that his fragrances would capture a multi-dimensional, olfactory rendering of this artistry. High hopes? Maybe, and without a huge back catalogue of comparisons at my disposal, I have approached Serge Lutens ‘Vitriol d’Oeillet’ with the joyous naivety and passion of a student who has read much but experienced little. Hey ho, I have no problems admitting this, I’m learning as I go along and who knows, it might even make for a fresher review….

To set the scene, imagine a studio that is set up for a photo shoot. High ceilings, white walls and expensive lighting equipment rigged up everywhere. There is a backdrop of black silk, cascading into pools on a dark parquet floor. Before it stands an ornate chair with blood red velvet cushions and a laquered table with long, spindly legs. On the table is an oriental vase, decorated with intricate gold and red patterns on white. Carnations fill the vase, an explosive bouquet of variegated plum and white ragged petals.

A model, pale and graceful as a willow, her saffron hair styled into waves that fall over one shoulder, moves carefully to perch on the chair. Dressed in a gown of pure white with trailing skirts, she extends one leg elegantly to the side and tilts her head upwards. Stylists rush to touch up her flawless alabaster skin and re-paint her already ruby stained lips. Baskets heaped with more carnations, red and beheaded, are brought in and strewn all around her on the floor. The set is ready. The model raises a hand to her long, white throat and closes her eyes, the photographer is poised….

Saffron paint powder and red petals are flung in great handfuls from both sides and in the split second that the colour hits the whiteness of skin and silk, the photographer captures his moment. Perfect opulence defaced by violent beauty. Blood, ivory and black pearls. This is ‘Vitriol d’Oeillet’.

The name translates from the french as ‘angry carnation’. I have read that people have been disappointed by ‘Vitriol d’Oeillet’s’ lack of fury, finding it polite and slightly old fashioned. I did not find it in the least dated, even with the great lashings of carnation present. I love carnation in fragrance, it is as close as I come to enjoying spice on my skin. I appreciate the balance of floral and warm notes that this ragged edged bloom creates, but it is so often tipped over the precipice into powdery hell that when I come across a scent that avoids this I rejoice. For me this is a perfume of shifting dimensions and multiple veils, with a quiet but no less vitriolic presence.

My initial response was one of surprise, I wasn’t expecting ‘Vitriol d’Oeillet’ to have such a coolness. The clove is not hot and spiced as I anticipated, it is more of an icy breath, followed by sharp kicks of pepper and cayenne. It is a very visual experience, black, orange, red and white. No heat at all, it is the cold anger of a woman scorned. Then I notice a creaminess developing. The fragrance becomes more smooth and woody, slightly sweeter with a lick of clove infused Creme Anglaise.

Then along comes glorious carnation and I pray that she keeps her powder compact stowed away. For a few minutes the carnation is very prevalent and everything else recedes to the back, I am reminded briefly of more classical interpretations of this flower and I begin to feel disappointed. But then ‘Vitriol d’Oeillet’ re-invents herself as a thoroughly modern woman by shifting the iced veil of clove and nutmeg over her petals again.

I love how this perfume is seemingly multi-dimensional. It is like a revolving carousel of sheer screens, each portraying a different aspect of the fragrance, which can be glimpsed through each other. I do not use ‘sheer’ to describe a faded, subtle nuance, each screen is painted using vibrant colour. It is just so fascinating how the perfume continually shows different facets of itself whilst maintaining that cool, spiced venom at it’s core. ‘Vitriol d’Oeillet’ shifts in this way for hours, hovering a little above the skin. I think that it would have a much more powerful presence when spritzed liberally, but that’s not my style.

The carnation, in my humble opinion, is triumphant. A perfect balance of petals and piquancy, never dated, always elegant. I struggle to enjoy very dramatic perfume because I just don’t feel as if it suits me, but ‘Vitriol d’ Oeillet’ has drama without causing a scene. I completely understand the anger. It is still, considered and positively terrifying. The slow and controlled rage of a perfectly poised woman, slighted and vengeful. She will never forgive you and you had better watch your back.

I will wear this perfume when I need to feel indestructible. It has beauty and elegance in spades, but it is also powerfully potent. I went to bed spritzed with it and woke up fragrant the next morning. For me ‘Vitriol d’Oeillet’ has just the right balance of drama and restraint, god forbid anyone who gets in my way when I’m wearing it!

Jovoy ‘La Liturgie des Heures’

La Liturgie

Jovoy, as I have mentioned in previous reviews, is a boutique in Paris filled to the rafters with hard core haute perfumerie. They also have their own line of fragrances and ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ is one of them. Now anyone who has read my review of ‘Gardez-Moi’ from Jovoy will know how in love I am with this fragrance. ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ is completely at the opposite end of the spectrum, yet also has quite a hold over me. It is certainly not love, but this perfume is so powerful in it’s delivery and so evocative that it demands to be written about.

Where ‘Gardez-Moi’ is a joyful splash in a bowl of summer fruit punch, ‘La Liturgie’ is a solemn sunday morning in the depths of winter. On the Jovoy website it is described as

 “evoking the image of an old monastery where the scent of burning incense fills the air just like the chanting of daily prayers.”

It is very hard to conjure up another picture other than that which is described above. This perfume is so, so clear with it’s imagery that it acts as a transporter, whisking you straight into an old church on a cold day….

It is morning and the sky is already tired from holding up the clouds. They wrap around it like a yellow-grey muffler, blurring the light into tertiary colours. It is cold and dry right down into the stone, too cold even for frost to form. The skeleton leaves cling to branches as dark and brittle as a witches bones, whispering their last cries into the close of the year.

You do not want to leave your fireside, but it is a day of worship, so on with your Sunday best and up the lane to church. The iron bell in the steeple is tolling. A woollen scarf wrapped around your throat and as many layers as will fit under your coat, you know that the air inside the church will be even colder in it’s stillness. By the time the service is over your feet will be icy and your nose dripping. Still, you know you cannot miss it….

The path up through the graveyard is overhung by a huge old Yew tree. Hollow inside, it spills it’s mulchy heart out onto the dry grass. The leaves, like smooth, flat pine needles, are so dark green they almost seem black. Tiny red berries grow in clusters all over this ancient protector, guarding the church from evil spirits. The gravestones are grey and cold as only dead stone can be. Covered in yellow splotches of lichen, so old that the names of the people beneath have long since been erased by time. Up to the doors you trudge, wreathed in frozen breath and the weariness of winter.

The dim interior of the church you have known your whole life. The floor is paved with chill tiles, red and black and cracked with age. The dark wood pews kneel permanently towards the alter, above which the stained glass glimmers darkly.

You take your seat and your eyes immediately find the piece of wall with it’s bubbled plaster that you have stared at every Sunday for so many years. The service begins and the scent of incense rolls out in thick clouds across the pews, this holy somnambulist who would carry you on a prayer into sleep if it weren’t so cold. As you run your thumb across the pages of your prayer book, the musty paper smell reminds you how many others have been here before you, and how many will come after you have been committed to the hard earth outside…..

An hour later you emerge blinking into the weak winter light, frozen and befuddled. Down the lane on frozen feet you hobble, towards your warm hearth fire and a cup of tea. Unwinding your scarf in the hallway, you catch a drift of incense that followed you home, infusing the fabric with it’s solemn humility. The sombre hum of resin that resonates in the chill … From the dust we have arisen and to dust we shall return….

For me ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ is about as reminiscent of church as it is possible for it to be. As a child I was struck with a very stark sense of my own mortality whenever I went to church, so frankinscence and myrrh still provoke those feelings in me now.

‘La Liturgie’ opens with a very sharp, almost alcoholic cypress note which is almost immediately resinous and sappy. I have read a lot of reviews that call this aspect of the fragrance very pine fresh, like furniture polish. I certainly detect the coniferous hints but for me the resin is deeper, mixed with damp soil and leaf mulch.

Of course the incense is prevalent throughout, and very true in it’s representation. It smells of cold smoke and black, glowing embers inside a brass censer. Once the myrrh is present the perfume doesn’t shift it’s shape, it stays as a steady, sombre distillation of church itself, right down to the dust on the floor underneath the pews and the dry paper smell of the prayer books. It is rather uncanny actually.

I don’t believe that a deconstruction of ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ will actually lead to a better understanding of the perfume. This it has in common with ‘Gardez-Moi’. Both fragrances are more than a sum of their parts and also present themselves as more of a whole than a progressive scent. Everything is experienced all at once and all recedes slowly together. A pleasant aspect of ‘La Liturgie’ is that it warms as it fades, taking the chill out of your bones.

As I have repeated over and over in this review, the experience created by ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ is so uncannily fitting of it’s description that I believe it is owed huge credit more as a piece of olfactory art, rather than a nice perfume for people to wear. I certainly won’t be wearing this in the conventional sense. I will wear it rather like one would wear headphones to listen to an audiobook. It is so transporting and real that it needs to be experienced rather than overlooked because of it’s strangeness.

It is true that there are probably only a few who will want to actually wear this perfume on their skin on a daily basis, but for those with a love of resinous, atmospheric, incense infused fragrance, ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ is an absolute must.

Altern’ Essence ‘Between Mountains’. Short but sweet…

altern' essence

The same fragrance fairy that sent me all the Gorilla perfumes also sent me a sample of this.  Altern’ Essence are a small, ethical company based in Edinburgh and they create fragrances using only 100% natural essential oils.

Now for a while I was very firmly an all natural fragrance kind of girl. Disillusioned by the increasingly bland, big brand offerings in my local department store, I was not yet aware of the diverse selection of far more interesting niche perfumes available to me. Therefore I retreated into the realms of natural perfumery, feeling that at least I knew what I was getting. An essential oil perfume is honest. It doesn’t make you a promise that it can’t deliver. It seemed like a kind of alchemy to me, a transforming of nature into a potent elixir.

‘Between Mountains’ is described as being

 “Inspired by a recent trip through Asia……. mostly influenced by a day perched on a small mountain ledge in Luang Pabang, surrounded on all sides by great imposing mountains, Between Mountains incorporates a feeling of grandeur but yet is very humble, using oriental and floral aspects.”

Having never had the experience of being perched on a mountain ledge in Luang Pabang, I was prepared to use my imagination for this one. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how evocative  this fragrance is, without any help.

‘Between Mountains’ opens with a really lovely breath of Neroli, proper, smokey-sharp neroli. Following behind is a crunch of black pepper and the two together create the unmistakable scent of an early summer morning. The sun rising crystalline before you, the grass still dewy but the air already warming up. Then along comes the lemon cream woodiness of sandalwood, like the smouldering of last night’s fires still sending tendrils through the green leaves above. In the bows, the night flowering jasmine closes it’s eyes against the morning but leaves it’s scent hanging in the air, enough to attract the bees. There is caraway too, and when it makes it’s appearance it leaves the uncanny impression of large stones heating up in the sun. Once the caraway is present it takes over, pushing the sun higher into the sky and warming that magical early morning into full daylight.

The perfume sits very close to the skin. It never raises its voice and within two hours has receded into an almost undetectable whisper of warmth. But the opening is just so completely beautiful, for the couple of minutes that it lasts it is a masterpiece. I am impressed with the blending of essential oils in ‘Between Mountains’. There is an exquisite balance of notes that is difficult to achieve and I just love that amazing neroli at the beginning. I would apply this perfume over and over again, just for that.

It does not have a lot of longevity or plunge to great depths in it’s development but I would definitely give it merit for it’s balance and subtle nuance. For those who like a very quiet, intimate perfume with no artificially created ingredients, I would highly recommend that you go and have a look at what Altern’ Essence are up to.

Gorilla Perfume ‘Sikkim Girls’

Sikkim Girls

I’ve been trying to learn more about the story surrounding this scent and it is proving a little elusive. It is supposedly based around a rumour that musician Sheema Mukherjee brought back from Darjeeling and turned into a piece of music. The story is of a pair of girls, modestly dressed in white but with quite indecent intentions…

 “It was there that she was warned that the Sikkim girls could charm a man away from your side with just a sidelong glance and sensual sway of their hips.”

Sikkim is a landlocked state in India, located in the Himalayas. I was looking for local myths about mysterious sirens luring men away from their wives, but so far all I have discovered is that woman in Sikkim are far less oppressed than women in India’s southern states. Boy children are not treasured more than girls. Although by western standards Sikkimese culture probably does not rank it’s woman folk as equal to it’s men, the women do have a lot more freedom to go about their lives unchaperoned and maintain a sense of individuality.

Hinduism is the main religion in Sikkim, where goddesses are as equally worshipped as gods. I have always been fascinated by Hindu culture and it’s complexities, it’s many, many deities, the philosophy and practice of the Hindu faith. However my interest has always been on an acedemic level, I have never actually been to India and immersed myself truly in the sights, sounds and smells of the place. And to add a further contradiction, I am generally not a fan of oriental inspired perfumes, in particular those with a blend of exotic spices and florals. Oh I love the idea of them, but as soon as I put them on my skin I feel like I am pretending to be someone else. I just don’t feel as if that style of perfume suits me. So it is probably fair to say that in my mind I may fancy the delights of the east but in my heart I am an english rose.

It is with a little confusion and a little apprehension that I approach ‘Sikkim Girls’. I wish I had a firmer basis from which to start, mainly because I feel uneducated about this genre of fragrance, but also because Gorilla have based this perfume around a whisper and a piece of music. I will step outside of the box and see what I can make of it. The music is really quite beautiful, the sitar weaving through your mind in a hypnotic trance. You can listen to it here. With the melody still rolling around in my head I take my first intoxicating breath of ‘Sikkim Girls’….

I am assailed by a full on, fleshy wallop of frangipani. Indolic, waxen white petals cling instantly to my skin. A smooth vanilla cream is quickly apparent underneath, along with a little lift of lighter jasmine. It is a very textural experience, pillowy white flesh and pollen tipped stamens, like those of a calla lily. I feel like a little fly that has crawled inside the welcoming, scented depths of a flower, perhaps never to escape.

The perfume continues to billow forth in this manner for the first few minutes. After a while I notice the jasmine turning a little antiseptic, but it doesn’t stay this way for very long. It is like the jasmine has turned it’s head to watch for the beginning of the main event, and here it comes, riding in a howdah atop a white elephant decorated with golden chains, the gargantuan carnal princess that is tuberose.

Once she arrives there is no ignoring her, the other aspects of the fragrance change in her presence. The vanilla veils itself in smokey incense, taking it’s place behind the royal guest of honour, fanning her occasionally with a drift of sandalwood. Jasmine weaves itself into her hair, becoming a note caught much closer to the skin. Frangipani, upstaged by her majesty, goes to sit in the corner and sulk. ‘Sikkim Girls’ becomes all about the tuberose, wave upon intoxicating wave of it. Warm, moist fleshliness, anointed with oils.

It is an all consuming perfume, the sillage is strong and continues to get stronger as it warms further on my skin. I am emanating a luscious, slightly over-ripe fugue at least 3 feet around myself. I really enjoy that smokey, woody vanilla, but I can only catch it every so often. In it’s place has stepped the impression of something spicy, I cannot detect it exactly, and there is no mention of it in the note listing but it is reminiscent of turmeric. There is the same golden buttery heat that you catch as it toasts in a pan of oil.

‘Sikkim Girls’ is a hypnotic chant, a continuous, hedonistic mantra that refuses to release you from it’s grip. The tuberose is relentless and for a while I am in love. But around two hours in I begin to tire of it’s insistent presence. I also keep catching a cloying rottenness, although only very slight and very typical of animalic tuberose. I think it might be my skin that brings that unpleasantness out to play. The impression is of a vase of lilies left to wilt on a hot windowsill. This picture fades slowly, over another three hours, until finally, exhausted, the princess lays down to sleep. The very end of the dry down is a soft kiss of jasmine and sandalwood.

The tantric song of ‘Sikkim Girls’ would be perfect spritzed onto silk sheets in a steamy boudoir, but it is not an intimate scent, it reaches out from the skin and invites all those around you to join in. There will be people who will fall completely in love with it, unafraid to wear liberal splashes of it’s carnal glory. Others will shrink from it’s resonant sensuality with blushed cheeks. I would love to smell this on someone else, someone with a love for exotic florals who could show me how to wear it with no shame. For me ‘Sikkim Girls’ is overwhelming and extrovert, I don’t perceive any modesty covering it’s sensuous nature. I feel as if I am shouting very loud and completely naked when I wear it. It has such beauty though, and I think that if you were tempted to stray by that mesmerising sway of the hips, you’d never return.

Gorilla have yet again created a perfume that provokes an emotional reaction, this time a powerhouse of exotic blooms that sings a siren’s song of mystical eastern pleasures. It has no restraint, makes no apology for it’s lustful desires and would capture your soul, enfolding you within it’s fleshy embrace forever, if you so wished…. wear it at your own risk…

Gorilla Perfume ‘Furze’

Furze

There is a wonderful and very kind fragrance fairy out there who has sent me samples of the entire Volume 2 collection of Gorilla Perfumes! This is wonderful because it means that I can really experience these fragrances and give them time to tell me their stories.

The more Gorilla Perfumes I try, the more I am coming to realise that they are up to something quite special as a brand. They really are ‘fragrance without fear’. Each has a very distinctive voice and there is no apology made if what they have to say is not to everyone’s taste. They are perfumes that demand not only to be sniffed but to be seen, the air becomes coloured around you when you wear a Gorilla scent. I have also noticed that my response to these fragrances is far more visceral than intellectual. It may still have a lot to do with my history with Lush but it is also more than that. It is as if the scent is reminiscent of some collective knowledge that I know without knowing, if I could just shake the dust from the part of my brain that remembers unconscious thoughts, I might know it better.

I have read a lot of responses to Gorilla Perfumes and there is a unanimous agreement that the scents make you feel….. How they make you feel is completely personal because after all there is nothing so subjective as scent. In the world of fragrance writing and reviewing, a perfume is observed, deconstructed, analysed, then pieced back together again with an opinion hung around it’s neck. With scent built around a traditional structure it is easy to take it apart and objectify each component and it’s relationship with the others. Gorilla perfumes (to my poorly educated nose anyway) seem to have a much more straight forward layered structure, but what is incredible is their demand for a reaction. Whatever perfume from the range you are trying, it hits you in the gut and provokes an emotional response before your mind has had a chance to start assessing the actual smell.

There is always something slightly twisted in Gorilla Perfumes, I am often surprised by the weird little kicks I come across and I can hear the perfume chuckling “ah ha! Thought I’d be gentle on you ay? Well tough shit have some of that!” Then in comes some odd note or sensation. In ‘Flowers Barrow’ it was the unrelenting powder, in ‘The Sun’ the sticky orange squash, in ‘Euphoria’ the uncontrollable desire for sleep. ‘Furze’ has it’s own little quirks, which I shall tell you about if you read on…

When I was growing up, I knew the dark green prickly shrub of this story as broom, or gorse. It grew in abundance on the windy bluffs of the Cotswold hills and in the early spring it would provide one of the first splashes of colour on the dun coloured landscape. I remember loving it’s name and imagining witches creeping about on the hills at night, harvesting the hardy green branches to fly home on in the moonlight. I also remember being told as a teenager that if you dried broom leaves you could smoke them and get high. I never tried to do this mum, honest.

Broom, or furze as we shall refer to it from now on, is one of those ancient plants that isn’t much to look at but was highly regarded in folklore for it’s magical properties. It was representative of light, banishing the lurking winter gloom with it’s burst of yellow petals. Given as a gift, furze was a symbol of good luck, unless you gave it to someone you were romantically involved with, in which case it meant that you were angry with them. Above all it was believed to be powerfully protective. Planted around the perimeter of your house it created a barrier which no bad spirit could cross. Burning furze wood and blooms helped to prepare and protect you during conflict.

I don’t remember furze flowers having a particular smell, however it is interesting that for some people they smell very distinctly of coconut. This must be the case for Simon Constantine, who created the ‘Furze’ fragrance. On the Gorilla Perfume website it is described as

 “Warm Vanilla like a honeyed Caramel snuggle and Coconut cuddles and kisses leaving you smelling mouthwatering and delicious…   swoon!”

Interesting. A potently protective, ancient scrub being represented using phrases like ‘coconut and caramel snuggles’? Those mind benders at Gorilla are at it again. The story of the scent is steeped in folklore and Simon’s feeling of protection for his family by the furze growing in his garden, yet it’s description is about as fluffy and insubstantial as you can get. I cannot wait to get ‘Furze’ on my skin and let it whisper it’s own story to me….

A recipe for protection.

This recipe much be made on a bright morning, preferably with the sun’s rays falling onto your work surface. Firstly, wash your hands with warm water and your finest mimosa scented soap. Then gather your ingredients together and light the stove, placing two copper saucepans on to warm gently.

·Take a large wooden bowl and into it tip the flour and sugar. Sift them together using your fingers.

·Into one of the pans pour your coconut milk and drop two vanilla pods in to infuse. Don’t be stingy with the vanilla, add three pods if the protection you need is strong. Leave it to heat through, stirring occasionally.

·Into the other pan place a knob of unsalted farmhouse butter and melt until it is golden and liquid. Pour the butter into the wooden bowl with the flour and sugar, then combine into crumbs using your fingers.

·Remove the coconut milk from the hob and gently stir in the yeast, then scoop out the pods and set them aside to dry. Do not dispose of them, you will need them again later. Pour the vanilla infused coconut liquid into the wooden bowl to gradually to form a dough.

·Once a sticky dough is formed, transfer it to a flour and sugar dusted wooden surface and begin to knead, all the while filling your mind with positive, protective thoughts. Envisage the colour yellow filling the room all around you and try to stay as relaxed as you can.

·When the dough is ready, wash your wooden bowl with the mimosa soap and return the dough to it. Cover it with a yellow cloth and set it in the warm sun to rise for an hour. During this time, go out and collect five sprigs of flowering furze from the garden. Separate the flowers from two of the sprigs but keep the other three intact.

·Return to the kitchen and uncover your dough, which should now have doubled in size. As you deflate it and begin to knead again, imagine your enemy’s power diminishing and your own power becoming stronger.

·Separate your dough into seven and roll them to create little buns. Cross each bun with a star, dust with more vanilla sugar and place in the oven to bake. Stay in the kitchen, and as the bread begins to rise and the smell mingles with the sunshine, imagine yourself as a strong and happy person, free from any worries or ill wishes.

·Prepare a box lined with white tissue paper and sprinkle some of the furze flowers into it. When the little buns have cooled, stud them with more flowers, place them in the box and tie it with a yellow ribbon.

·Send this box of sweetness to your enemy with all the positivity you can muster. Take the remaining furze sprigs and fashion them into a bunch with your vanilla pods, secure it with more yellow ribbon and hang it above your front door. Whenever you pass beneath this posy, say thank you for your continued happiness and protection from evil.

I believe that ‘Furze’ needs a much stronger identity than the one that is offered for it. Yes it is buttery and coconutty and delicious, but it is not a frivolous confection for little girls, it is a serious, adult-sized dish of delight and magic, to be handled with respect.

‘Furze’ begins with a clean, soapy mimosa that is quickly chased by coconut. At first the coconut is also very clean and soapy, creamy like lather. As it begins to warm on my skin the vanilla slowly oozes out and the coconut becomes buttery and sumptuous.

The mimosa is still very much present and when combined with the now unctuous, creamy butter it has an effect akin to not rinsing the washing up liquid from your glass properly then drinking milk from it. This is one of those strange little kicks that is always present in Gorilla Perfume, unsettling your nose so you can’t get comfortable with the scent too quickly.

I am pleasantly surprised at the character of the coconut in this perfume. I was expecting either a floral coconut combination, which I have experienced in products from Lush and was sad to find smelt a little bit sicky, or I was expecting more of a raw cocoa butter thing to happen, rich and chocolatey and nutty/earthy. Neither of these is present however. This coconut is delicious macaroon, slightly dry and sweet but also, when combined with generous lashings of custardy vanilla, becomes creamy smooth and melting.

There is a definite butter note present too, melting, unsalted butter. I can almost smell the greasiness of it before a caramel swirl brings it back from the brink. And always present, those clean soapy bubbles, floating high up in the fragrance, continually pulling me up out of the vat of custard. This is what I mean when I say that this is a grown up perfume. It is not simply sickly sweet and gloopy. That shiny, floral lightness helps to keep ‘Furze’ interesting and sophisticated. It is an adult gourmand rather than an ice cream sundae.

Another interesting facet of this perfume is that it has heights. Usually my experience of perfumes as they develop is that they get deeper. Darker base notes start to dominate as the sparkle at the top fades. In ‘Furze’, the deepest note is the vanilla, which gets warmer and combined with the coconut becomes creamy. There might be the tiniest hint of sandalwood but it certainly doesn’t show it’s true colours here. It’s the soapy froth on the top that doesn’t fade. It develops a slight green sharpness and holds itself entirely separate from the sweet custard tart below it. Very evocative of a furze bush, with it’s sharp thorns forming a protective guard over the creamy yellow flowers. If that was intentional on Simon’s part then it is an extremely clever piece of perfumery.

‘Furze’ is a very comforting fragrance. I love that the coconut and vanilla stay true, hours into the dry down. There is no complex shift where the perfume morphs into another shape, no nasty surprises lurking in the background. I could probably find words to criticize it’s simplicity and if ‘Furze’ didn’t have such a strong identity already I would say that it’s lack of depth diminished the resonance of the scent. However, ‘Furze’ is meant to envelop you in the softest woollen shawl and keep you safe from harm. It is sweet sunshine and simple happiness. There is no place for shadows here. To avoid the childish connotations of being safe and protected, ‘Furze’ reminds you that it has thorns with that sharp, twisted soap top note that only recedes at the very end, into a clean vanilla haze.

It really is rather beautiful. Bewildering, yet again, but lovelier for it.

I wonder how many people really ‘get’ Gorilla Perfume. It takes me a while to understand these scents and discover their true natures. The descriptions and hype surrounding them do not always ring true to me. I really do love the visual identity of the brand, created by the mad genius that is Plastic Crimewave, but it paints a very strong picture of the perfumes as graffiti scrawls on the pristine wall of modern cosmetics. This is going to put some of those classic ‘haute perfumerie’ fans off instantly. It would be very interesting to see what people’s response to these fragrances would be if the perfume and the brand was presented in more sophisticated packaging. I suspect it would be quite different. For those Lush customers popping in on a Saturday to buy bath bombs, I can imagine Gorilla being just too weird to consider.

Gorilla really does epitomise ‘niche perfume’. It has a very strong, forthright identity but I feel that sometimes (especially in the case of ‘Furze’), some of the beauty is diminished by the brand’s shouty persona. There is only a very small stage for it to stand on and perform and I would love to be at the Edinburgh Fringe right now, to see how they are doing it. Art and scent and performance is a heady trio. I hope that once you are embraced within the arms of the giant purple gorilla, it will whisper it’s more delicate secrets to you with due reverence.

Jovoy ‘Gardez-Moi’

Gardez-moi

If it hadn’t been for the marvellous Silver Fox, scentual wordsmith and fragrance expert, I might never have had the joy of discovering Jovoy perfumes. After several discussions about my search for ‘the one’, he suggested I find out more about what this marvellous Parisian boutique was all about. Since then I have read a lot about the company and it’s ethos, how it has evolved from a luxury perfume house into a destination for fragrance connoisseurs to explore the world of haute perfumerie.

Owner and visionary Francois Henin set out with the purpose of acquiring Jovoy, once a successful brand catering for the wealthy men and women of 1920’s Paris. He relaunched it as a kind of gallery space where niche perfume houses are given due credit for their craftsmanship and dedication to creating olfactory masterpieces. The customer’s experience within the store is about the discovery and appreciation of these wonderful fragrances, being given the time and space to enjoy them without being pushed into a purchase.

I love this. Proper fragrance will reveal it’s true nature only when you give it the time to do so. It is a secret courtship, a complex dance where the steps must be improvised to the rhythm of the scent. I think that is why I continually feel cheated by fragrance that is mass produced and pushed out into the world wearing it’s heart on it’s sleeve. What pleasure is there if your chosen scent is known by a million others? What can it possibly have for you that it hasn’t already given to half the planet?

Alongside the other exclusive brands, Jovoy has released it’s own fragrances. When the house was first established in the roaring twenties, it produced vibrant, modern scents for those within the upper classes who wanted to celebrate the freedom of the era and set themselves apart by wearing the most stylish scents. Today, it is much the same, these are perfumes for modern people, the statement is about ‘the now’. There is a definite nod to it’s past glory days, but the new fragrances are thoroughly contemporary.

Enter ‘Gardez-Moi’. Of this perfume, Henin says that

 You need to be familiar with society’s morals at that time in order to better understand this scent. After World War I and until the Great Depression, it was absolutely normal if a man came to the restaurant or to the theater with two women: one lady, his spouse; the second, a beautiful kept mistress.

‘Keep Me’ is the English translation of ‘Gardez-Moi’. It is a tribute to a perfume of the same name that was released in 1926. Jovoy was the destination for Parisian cocottes, fine ladies who became the mistresses of upper class, married men. These dangerously decadent and often beautiful women led an extravagant, opulent lifestyle paid for mostly by their rich lovers. Ranked somewhere between courtesans and prostitutes, they were an excepted part of society at that time. As perfect muses for artists, writers and musicians, cocettes wreathed themselves in glamour and allure, always exquisitely dressed, always desirable.

I was wondering if ‘Gardez-Moi’ would be nothing more than a modern interpretation of the cocotte,   All allure and jewels and sex. Although it has many of those elements within it, the fragrance as a whole is so much more than a sum of it’s parts. I usually can’t help but personify perfumes. Characters step fully formed into my mind to bear their scented mantels through a story. But ‘Gardez-Moi’ is more of a sensation than a person. I will try to explain it, but I already know that it has to be worn to be truly experienced.

‘Gardez-Moi’ opens in the traditional way of most perfumes, with a flourish of top notes. I immediately detect aldehydes and cyclamen. It is so evocative of hot house flowers that I can feel the fleshy, waxy petals between my fingers, how they would bruise if I pushed my fingernail into them. Next come the lilies and gardenia in a breath of sweet pollen, which is momentarily spiced with black pepper. To my relief the pepper recedes to a pleasant hum almost immediately and the flowers sing out with lushness once again.

Then the most delicious sensation appears in the fragrance. The tropical humidity of the petals is quenched in mouthwatering dew, the whole thing turns liquid and flows off the skin in a torrent of fruit juices. I actually taste ripe plums and raspberries crushed into sparkling spring water. I have come across ‘wet’ fragrances before but there is none of the usual coolness, no green cucumber or melon that usually feature so strongly. ‘Gardez-Moi’ is a watercolour of fruits and flowers, painted without brushes. it is a perfect sphere filled to bursting with exquisitely sweet pleasures.

It continues as a slow wash of sweetness, each note incapsulated into beads of jewel bright liquid, to be dropped into a still lake. It is quite stunning. I am bewitched by how this fragrance manages to be wet, sugary, warm and refreshing all at once. It sits fairly close to the skin, a scrumptious sensation, I am tempted to sink my teeth into my own arm.

‘Gardez-Moi’ can only be described as gourmand because it evokes such a mouthwatering reaction. There is an abundance of beautiful things in this fragrance that I haven’t mentioned so far, jasmine, ylang-ylang and mimosa, coriander and tomato leaves, musk, vanilla and oak moss. I didn’t notice the development of these notes individually, ‘Gardez Moi’ does not shift and change in a way that I have ever experienced in a perfume before. As it mellows further it becomes a luscious wash, the elements beginning to flow into each other, creating a slick honey scented with petals and succulent juices. It is devine nectar, a thirst quenching ambrosia of the gods.

Yet it is also so warm and comforting. The vanilla unites with the berries into a sweet soufflé that emerges out of the water to be served on a floating raft, draped with fine silks and cashmere blankets. From here you could stargaze though out the warm, ylang scented night, listening to the ripples as they spread in your wake.

I am head over heels in love with ‘Gardez-Moi’. It’s as simple as that. On skin it is intimate and fluid, on fabric it is more clinging, full of red juices and white blossoms. It never looses that amazing wetness that is at once refreshing and sensual. To wear it is to take the finest watercolour paints in vibrant pinks, purples and reds, and drip them into a pool of deepest blue water. It doesn’t become a pastel impression of itself as it fades, it simply starts to flow away as gently as it flooded your senses in the beginning. It leaves behind a blushing glow of raspberries and jasmine and musk.

‘Gardez Moi’ is a forbidden fruit, to be lusted after and craved. It bows it’s bejewelled head to the beautiful kept women of it’s past, then is carried on the flow of the river into the garden of Eden. It is the apple and I am Eve. You have to try it.