Monthly Archives: September 2013

Why do I write a perfume blog?

susieface

For the first time in Epiphany’s little life so far, I’ve decided to keep the fragrance on the shelf and talk about the reasons why I write a blog and in particular, a perfume blog. I read a very thought provoking piece by Nafia at ‘Confessions of a Creative’ about whether bloggers are selling out for free bottles of perfume and it really got me thinking. Why do I write? Why do I write about perfume? What do I expect to get from it?

I have always tried to be as honest and thought provoking as I can be within these pages, I strive to stir memories, inspire beauty and cause emotional reactions with the words I choose. These are the things that move me and therefor it is all I have to give. This is not a blog where I pretend to be someone else. This is really me. In the short time that I’ve been writing here, Epiphany has evolved to become extremely important to me and I feel both proud and a little shy and protective of how much of myself I seem to pour (sometimes unintentionally) into my writing. Perfume is a medium in which it is impossible to be anything but emotional and I am a highly emotional creature. It is for this reason that I chose perfume as a subject. But how did it all start for me?….

What I used to think about blogs.

I will confess to arriving late into the land of blogging. For a long time I didn’t really understand what the purpose of a blog was. The ones I came across by accident from google searches were invariably either totally obscure, badly written or little more than online diaries. I didn’t get it. Why would you want to publish your deepest darkest thoughts for a million strangers to stumble across? It’s difficult when you don’t understand the concept of a blog to understand it’s content. Time passed and suddenly, everyone and their mother had a blog. I turned my head for a second and when I looked back the Internet was riddled with perfectly designed pages, overflowing with artfully shot interiors and beautiful people. The idilic family unit, holidays in the campervan, the latest fashions/ vintage finds effortlessly hung upon the trendy young clothes hangers of London and New York. Girls and boys with great hair and cool tattoos posing through the filtered lenses of Instagram. It struck me as terribly narcissistic yet I couldn’t help but be fascinated by this peek into people’s lives.

Everyone is a photographer nowadays, with the magic of iPhone and photo apps. Everyone is fashionable, now that it’s cool to wear your grannie’s wedding dress down the pub. Anyone can film a makeup tutorial and put it on YouTube. Not everyone can do it well, but the point is that anyone can have a go. And they do. A blog is suddenly an essential tool to becoming a successful…. whatever you want to be. To stand out in this ocean of hopeful creative types the idea is to build your brand. Build it consistently, rigorously, professionally, beautifully. Make a living being fabulous and showing everyone else how to be fabulous too. if you’d like to see the perfect example of this check out A Beautiful Mess. This is an astronomically successful beauty/lifestyle blog where gorgeous people are gorgeous all day long. Sickening and satisfying all at once. I sure don’t like the feeling of jealous envy that visiting these types of blogs leaves me with, yet I love looking at all the pretty things…. What a weird contradiction. The blogs with more written content are no less intimidating. Here you are touting yourself as ‘knowledgable’ as well! Keeping your mouth shut and looking pretty is a skill, but voicing your own knowledge and opinions without coming across as a complete tool is far more difficult when you can’t fully express intonation and tone.

I believe that it is very rare these days to find a blogger with no agenda. Gone are the days when writing a blog was akin to keeping a diary. (Although I do have to say that I’ve never fully agreed with that analogy; if you publish something on the Internet, someone, somewhere is going to read it. A diary is private surely?) Blogs nowadays are used for showcasing yourself, your talent and your product. They are about growing your audience and sharing your opinions. If your agenda is simply to meet and chat to like minded people about a common subject, your blog is still representing you and the expectation of the viewer is higher today than ever before. Even if the subject matter is deemed more important than the presentation, it is a fact that well presented blogs are more frequented. If you have something to say you want people to visit right?

I know I sound like some sort of self help guide for new bloggers. That’s because it’s how I was introduced to the world of blogging. It’s all very useful information and stuff that should definitely be implemented- once you have your content sorted. I knew that I needed to write, and I thought that having a blog would probably be a good starting block, but I was daunted and put off by the sheer number of them out there. How could I stand out? Where should I even start?

So what’s my agenda? Why perfume?

Before I started Epiphany I had another blog, totally unrelated to perfume and more akin to many thousands of ‘crafty young mum’ blogs that are around these days. I started it because I was on maternity leave and totally re-assessing what I wanted from life. Up until I had my daughter I was in the rut of working hard to live a little, not really achieving great things, complaining about it but doing nothing to change it.

I realised that I had talent going to waste and there was no better time to make the most of it than when you have nine months off and an angelically easy baby. I’d started to make a lot of stuff while I was pregnant and so my first blog was all about the stuff that I was making. I was hoping to build up a little business making pretty things to earn a bit of extra money. I hoped my blog would bring in new customers. I also included little posts about my ‘thoughts’ and these were the ones I found myself writing more and more of. The crafting became a bit tedious, I was running out of things to photograph and I really didn’t want to end up with a ‘look at my cute baby’ blog (that’s what Facebook is for!) All I knew was that I had re-awoken a passion for writing and I wanted to do it all the time. I didn’t have any ideas for a book, I’m not a particularly good poet, I’m not the right sort of person to be a journalist….so what the hell was I going to write about?!

I have always loved perfume and I worked in one of the most scented environments in retail for quite a while. It’s been an ongoing private love affair that has lasted most of my life, but until I worked for Lush I didn’t seek out other people with similar passions or investigate the wealth of knowledge there is out there. I was always preoccupied with something else, or thought that my emotional reactions to fragrance were somehow invalid or strange. Lush, whilst being an exhausting place to work, certainly got my juices flowing when it came to scent and I started to look outside the mainstream market for perfume that would satisfy my cravings. I never, ever thought I could write about it though, not until I stumbled across the most beautiful piece of writing by The Silver Fox, about a perfume I had never heard of. I was so thrilled by the imagery and emotion of his writing that I went on the hunt for that perfume (Mito, Vero Profumo btw)  and discovered that some perfumeries will send you samples for a couple of pounds. I was thrilled and when my parcel arrived I spent hours with my nose attached to my wrist, understanding and exploring all the nuances and twists of the fragrance like I never had before.

It all just seemed to click into place. Here was something that I could write about. The subject matter already existed and fascinated me, it provoked a hugely emotional reaction that allowed me to write creatively and emotionally whilst remaining grounded in the process of reviewing the fragrance. I’ve never been good with a blank sheet of paper and with fragrance writing I feel I’ve already been given the story, in scent form, I just have to express it in writing as sympathetically and truthfully as possible.

I enjoy every review I write because it takes me on a journey. I enjoy creating the imagery and using the vocabulary to really bring the scent to life. I know very little about the perfume world, I am learning every day and I know that it is something that I want to be a part of. I’m not sure how yet, I think I will just keep writing and learning and talking to as many different people as I can. I read a lot of perfume blogs for inspiration, keep up to date with all the latest launches and generally make sure that I am becoming as knowledgable as possible.

So my agenda is this: I want to keep writing about scent, that much is for sure. I do not know enough yet and I want to keep learning. I also know that I want to turn this in the direction of a career. I need this to be something. Something that I can feel proud to tell my daughter about. I want this to be how I earn money. I don’t want to earn it through advertising on my blog. I don’t want to be buried under free bottles of perfume with no money for food. I want to be respected as a writer. The only way I can think of achieving this is to keep going and see where it takes me.

My Ethos.

I feel totally uninspired by writing bad reviews, so if I really don’t like a perfume I won’t write about it. I do not see what benefit there is from writing a piece that is viciously scathing. As a reader I always want to know why I will enjoy something, not why I will hate it. I am as truthful about the perfume as I can be, whilst retaining it’s dignity for those who will undoubtably love it. Besides, who the hell am I to tell you why something is rubbish? Only the most highly respected perfumers and critics are in a position to do that and still the ultimate choice is yours. If I don’t have anything good to say I won’t say it. I’ll only offer as much constructive criticism as I feel my knowledge will allow.

I will not feel pressured to write good reviews by being sent lovely bottles of perfume. There is no denying that it is very nice to receive presents in the post, and I am always surprised and grateful that brands are so generous. I try to only approach companies that I am genuinely interested in so that it’s fairly certain that I will have some good things to say when the free stuff arrives, thus avoiding awkward guilt and feelings of ingratitude and maintaining my ‘no sell out’ policy. I should add here that for some bloggers a decent career can be formed from writing good reviews. It is a talent to create beautiful imagery for a perfume and convince people that they will love it. I would just much rather see them working directly for the company they are gushing about. If I am interested in sampling a fragrance I will seek it out and buy it for myself. That is why I love Bloom perfumery so much. I am only a tiny way into discovering all the perfumes that they stock and I am always so thrilled to be able to purchase samples sizes. It makes this whole blog possible for me.

I will always strive to learn more and I will try never to get too big for my boots.

I feel like I have genuinely discovered my future within the scented veils of perfume writing. I have had the opportunity to chat with some pretty amazing people already and I discover more fascinating avenues to explore every day. I want to always approach my writing with as much enthusiasm and enjoyment as I do now. Perfume will never fail to thrill me and I hope I never run out of words.

So there you have it. That is why I write a perfume blog, and will continue to write a perfume blog. It’s probably the same story that lots of other bloggers would tell too, you have to be passionate about something to write about it continually. I feel like my journey has only just started really, I’m so excited to see where I might end up…

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Penhaligons ‘Iris Prima’

Iris Prima

It’s no secret that I love Penhaligons. I love the quintessential englishness of the brand, I love the packaging, I love the refined and highly crafted finesse of the fragrances. I may not wear them all but one has to appreciate how well Penhaligons have preserved themselves as a perfume house of impeccable taste.

Penhaligons is my go to house for when I’m in need of ultra feminine fragrances. My two favourite floral bouquets are from Penhaligons and I think it is the old fashioned elegance of these perfumes that most satisfies me. I wear ‘Gardenia’ and ‘Lily of the Valley’, the latter being one of the most creamy and authentic lily of the valley fragrances around. I feel transported in these scents, like I’ve slipped through the mists of time into another life. They bring with them very clear imagery. Wearing ‘Iris Prima’ I experienced a very personal journey, both into my past and also a peek at a future that never happened…..

When I was a very little girl my mother took me along to a ballet class on the recommendation of a friend, who said I had potential. I don’t remember that first class, I was only three, but from that point onwards dancing was such an integral part of my life that it was like breathing. I loved to dance, ballet in particular, and I was very good at it too.

When I was about ten or eleven I went to audition for the Royal Ballet School. I think my mother was a little unsure about how I would handle it, I’d been used to going to dance festivals and winning gold medals in every category. Being young I couldn’t see what she could, that from the moment you are accepted into that world of professional dance your life becomes all about hard physical work, knock backs and triumphs and competition. I did the summer school but wasn’t given a permanent place. I was distraught but I think my mother was relieved and looking back, so am I.

For me, up until that moment dance had been all about release and the joy of movement. The thrill of dressing up and the excitement of competitions, the pride I felt in my drawer of gold medals. I realised at that audition that sometimes it doesn’t matter how good you are at something, there will always be someone else just as good and perhaps more suitable. There was a physical exam where I was taken into a side room and measured, weighed, stretched and inspected. I didn’t see what could possibly be wrong with me physically, so I didn’t worry. As it turned out, I had one leg fractionally longer than the other. Also they predicted that I would be tall and perhaps a little heavy to ever make it as a professional dancer. Aged thirty I can marvel at how accurate a prediction that was. Aged ten I thought that was very, very unfair.

It is a relief to me that I didn’t have a pushy mother, because I might have gone on to audition again for another school, gotten in and then struggled throughout my teenage years with the fact that I was growing too tall and weighing ever so slightly too much. Dancers have feather light frames and whilst I would never have been considered anything but slim, I have always had the frustrating predisposition of heavy bones. It is no wonder that eating disorders are rife among dancers.

If you’d asked me before that audition what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have said ‘ballerina!’ without a moment’s pause. After the audition I began to slowly turn my attention towards different types of performance and by aged sixteen I was far more interested in acting, much to the frustration of my dance teachers, only keeping up the dance classes because I enjoyed it. By aged eighteen it was time to decide. University to do art or stage school to do dance and drama. I chose art at university and hung up my pointe shoes, partly with sadness, partly with relief. I think there was always a sense that I had walked away from something I was very talented at, but which might have really screwed me up. I’m not really a half measures kind of girl, it’s all or nothing, and I know that if I’d gone off to ballet school I would have put myself through hell, perhaps to no avail. I am grateful to my mother for subtly distracting me with other choices so that I didn’t fixate on my failure. I was able to go on to enjoy ballet with only a slight twinge of regret that it wasn’t me that was centre stage.

I approach ‘Iris Prima’ with both delight and slight trepidation. A perfume inspired by time spent in the company of the English National Ballet, with iris at it’s heart. Ballet I adore and iris I do not. So how will Alberto Morillas, the perfumer behind the scent, convince me that this is more than a simple, powdery floral?……

‘Iris Prima’ steps into the rehearsal rooms in a light haze of citrusy bergamot, reminiscent of  hairspray and lemon tea. I say rehearsal room rather than the stage because for all the nice analogies I could make between the perfume and it’s performance, it is clear from the beginning that this scent is not about the excitement of the stage. It has a very quiet resonance, this is an important rehearsal where all the development and hard work happens. There is absolutely nothing like the thrill of dancing out onto a flood lit stage, the heat, the exertion, the applause…. None of that is present in ‘Iris Prima’, but that is not a criticism. It would be too easy to make a perfume about the actual performance, I am far more impressed with this perfume because of it’s intimacy.

The bergamot eases softly into the most lovely leather, which is exactly as a stockroom full of new ballet shoes smells. I can really tell that the perfumer has been to these places and intelligently interpreted the atmosphere into perfume. That leather accord is perfect. When you have a new pair of pointe shoes you don’t just put them on and off you go, they have to be broken in so that you can actually bend your feet in them. They also have to be darned to protect the satin and have their ribbons sewn in exactly the right position to support your ankles. Dancers spend hours working and moulding their shoes to their feet, bending the leather soles until they become flexible. That is what the leather in ‘Iris Prima’ smells like. New, tan leather and powdery satin being worked and flexed until it is supple.

That iris that I was so dubious about has none of the cloying powderiness that I dislike in fragrances such as Prada ‘Infusion d’Iris’. I detect a lot of jasmine as well which, along with that gorgeous tan leather and palest pink satin, bring just the perfect amount of powder without ever becoming overwhelming. ‘Iris Prima’ flits about the mirrored studio in this manner for some time and I am charmed by the effortless grace and flow of the perfume, and encouraged to lean in closer as it becomes increasingly introverted, like a dancer disappearing into that trance like state of concentration. I don’t feel that ‘Iris Prima’ represents the bodily exertion of dance, the blood, sweat and tears are hidden beneath the grace of movement and introversion of most dancers as they are learning new steps.

Vanilla and sandalwood come later in the dry down, along with resinous benzoin. This accord too so accurately portrays the rehearsal room that I am placed firmly back in the studios of my dancing days, worn wooden floorboards and bars polished with beeswax. Lying face down, panting for breath and inhaling the smell of the wood, pulling a woolen shawl around a body so tired that the floor feels as comfortable as a feather bed. This is how ‘Iris Prima’ ends on my skin, as a warm, vanillic wood with powdered satin whispering across it.

There is no spotlight and no red curtain present in ‘Iris Prima’. No adrenaline and sweat, no rapturous applause. It is most definitely all about the ballet, but the one that is performed in front of the mirror in a echoing studio. It is private, quiet and introverted, almost melancholic in it’s feather light beauty. This is not a dramatic perfume at all, but it still has a profound impact. It is touching to the point that I felt a little tearful wearing it, although that may be because it made me feel wistful for times past. This perfume I will spray onto clothes as well as skin so that it lingers just a little longer. Penhaligons and Alberto Morillas receive a standing ovation from me for the conceptual brilliance of ‘Iris Prima’, I would love to see them make a rouge tinted, show stopping performance scent as a follow up. I shall await the curtain call with a fluttering heart….

Atkinsons 1799 (2013 Fragrance Launch)

Atkinsons

Atkinsons is a perfume house with some seriously prestigious history. Founded in 1799 by James Atkinson, a northern lad with grand ideas and copious amounts of rose scented bear grease, he travelled to London to seek his fortune and within a very short time had established Atkinsons as the fashionable place to acquire your fragrance. The bear became the emblematic logo of the company, Atkinson going so far as to chain a live bear outside his first premises on 44 Gerrard Street.

Earning high profile fans within the royal family and awarded the unrivaled position of Official Perfumer to the Royal Court of England in 1826, Atkinsons continued from strength to strength, finally acquiring a grand headquarters at 24 Old Bond Street. If you would like to read a most interesting article on the history of the company then please have a look at james-sherwood.com. I found it completely by accident when googling whether the aforementioned bear was actually real and it tells the tale of Atkinsons rather better than I could.

So, to quote the re-established Atkinsons:

 “After a most delightful hibernation, Atkinsons and it’s growly bear have awoken from their slumber totally refreshed and revived……..we are now ready to usher in a new century of perfume snobbery”

I don’t know if I am a perfume snob, but I do know what I like. The branding of Atkinsons is absolutely spot on. The rich orange and royal purple theme with the coat of arms conjure modern decadence and luxury extremely vividly. The bottles are satisfyingly sturdy and classic and the tone of all the literature is tongue in cheek british in the best kind of way. I love the re-invention of the bear as a modern dandy and I was suitably impressed by the quirky website and Facebook page. The perfume descriptions are engaging, intriguing and just a little eccentric. The juice itself? A real mixed bag for me, so I shall save the best for last…….

There are four perfumes in the Legendary collection. ‘The British Bouquet’, ‘Fashion Decree’, ‘The Nuptial Bouquet’ and ‘The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet’. There is also the house’s emblematic fragrance, ’24 Old Bond Street’.

‘The British Bouquet’ I was the most excited about and liked the least, mainly because it descended into nostril singeing mayhem after 10 minutes on my skin. Inspired by Beau Brummell, the original dandy, it contains lavender, myrtle and malt, citrus notes of bitter orange and lemon with a leather accord woven thoughout. Potentially glorious, and the opening was a stunning, bitter slam of citrus and whiskey that had me very excited. That leather note was also, for about 5 minutes, one of the most interesting I have experienced. Very smooth and fine, like brand new handmade shoes on velvet carpets. But then, alas, complete melt down and the whole scent burnt up into an acrid hum of chemicals that left me unable to detect anything but a headache. I don’t know why this happened, I do have a fairly sensitive nose so it may be that for others this doesn’t happen. If that’s the case then I’m jealous, because that first 10 minutes was really rather nice.

‘Fashion Decree’ is a pink peppercorn, chinese magnolia and patchouli scent inspired by an era where silk brocades where shipped from the Middle East packed in patchouli leaves, ready to be fashioned into exquisite gowns for the most discerning ladies. ‘Fashion Decree’ is a massive wallop of fiery pepper and indolic florals, lusty, busty and overflowing with red petals and boudoir secrets. Pretty potent and not my thing at all, I can see this being very popular with all those lovers of oriental perfumes. It has a very extrovert nature, it makes me think of rouge and floodlights and sultry dressing rooms where rushed embraces occur between curtain calls. Evocative, certainly, but maybe a little unfinished and brash. There are some definite rough edges here that I would be more forgiving of if I knew whether they were supposed to be there or not.

‘The Nuptial Bouquet’ is based on the blooms that Queen Victoria carried in her wedding bouquet. Violet leaves, lily of the valley, myrtle and white sandalwood form a fragrance that is awash with dewy tendrils and delicate white petals. The opening is all about the lily of the valley, which I like very much. The scent is extremely feminine and sheer, green and floaty light. Every inch a young Victoria, madly in love with her dear Albert. It does not rock my world but it should be praised for its subtlety and delicacy. A lovely scent for young ladies and those who prefer to keep their perfume light, floral and fresh.

‘The odd Fellow’s Bouquet’ is a perfume described as “Lawrence of Arabia ensconced in the splendour and leather Chesterfielded comfort of a St. James gentleman’s club.” It is by far the most interesting and most successful of the Legendary collection in my opinion. It opens with biting  cold pink peppercorn which is chased and set alight by a ginger spined dragon smoking a pipe of finest Balken tobacco. The pipe smoke is eerily accurate, sweet, slightly fuggy and richly creamy. Just as I remember the old tobacconist’s shop smelling when the owner was still allowed to smoke in there. The leather accord here is much deeper and more convincing, it is redolent of the arms of a chair where a thousand palms have caressed the leather until it is shiny. Later in the development comes a very comforting milky almond note from the heliotrope and amber which pulls a warm blanket over the knees of the ginger dragon. There is a coal fire warmth and a hot toddy coziness to the scent as it mellows. Totally eccentric and very pleasing.

The perfume that wins hands down for me is ’24 Old Bond Street’, the cologne named after Atkinsons grand former head quarters and the chief representitive of the brand. This perfume seems much more finished and considered than the other four and I feel it better represents the brand in it’s re-invented, modern incarnation. With notes of juniper, rose and black tea, it is an invigorating scent that surprised me because I usually don’t go for this type of fragrance at all, yet I like this enough to wear it.

’24 Old Bond Street’ bursts open with a classic cologne feel of coolness. The juniper is pure gin in these first few seconds, then along comes a lovely sheer rose to pretty up the splashes of alcohol. The tea is more of a tanin type stain at the back of the fragrance, the juniper and rose are definitely the main characters in this scent. The whole perfume has a very crystalline, cold water feel to it and doesn’t really warm as such. The supposed peat whiskey note I’m afraid I don’t get, such is the power of that dashing juniper. ’24 Old Bond Street’ is very linear and simplistic, which I appreciate after all the convoluted storytelling of the other perfumes. It is well blended and clean, bracing and surprisingly long lasting. A modern scent for modern men and women which doesn’t rely on a historical theme to give it presence. This is a perfume that is great if you like to smell fresh out of the shower, without any of the usual ‘laundry’ type elements associated with that type of scent. It is clean cut, casually tailored and effortlessly classy. Here I think Atkinsons have hit upon a winner.

I think that I wanted more from these perfumes than they were able to offer up. With such impressive marketing and evocative back stories the juice has to hold it’s own, and in three out of the five I’m not sure it quite does that. Yet. I believe that there is more work to be done here. I got a sense that perhaps the creation of these perfumes was a little rushed and disconnected, created by several different perfumers and without any solid links to bring all the fragrances together coherently. The simple brilliance of ’24 Old Bond Street’ has captured my interest sufficiently to stay interested in the brand and what they have up their sleeves next. Atkinsons is owed a little more time, a little more love and a little more dedication to produce genuinely beautiful fragrances. This launch has been all about creating the look, next time let’s hope they make it all about the perfume.

Vero.Profumo ‘Kiki’

Kiki Eau Kiki Extrait

I’ve been really spoiled when it comes to Vero.Profumo fragrances as I’ve been lucky enough to try the Eau de Parfums and the Extraits side by side. This has been a wonderful excerise in learning more about Vero Kern’s development of the perfumes and how she has subtly altered and lightened the Eaux, without changing their essential characters.

‘Onda’ I found to be two very different facets of the same sexually suggestive jewel. The Eau de Parfum was light, sun drenched, lazy sex in the afternoon, the extrait was more about the animal attraction between two people late at night. A difficult and fascinating perfume, I knew when I reviewed it that although it intrigued me and educated me, it would not be a scent that I would put on my skin very often. ‘Mito’ is another that I found to be quite an experience, so green with zest that it almost fizzes, with a salt tang and a heady presence that was just a little too loud for me to wear comfortably. ‘Rubj’ I am saving for a day when I feel resilient because I have a suspicion that it too will give me a run for my money. But ‘Kiki’? Well, let me tell you about it….

Named after the vivacious and iconic woman that began her life as Alice Prin, then later reinvented herself as Kiki, the queen of Montparnasse. She was an artist’s model, singer, and painter who has become synonymous with the liberated social scene of 1920’s Paris. If you have ever seen a photograph of her your will see instantly why she was so much loved and emulated. She had such a face! Not beautiful by today’s airbrushed western standards, but so striking and with the dramatic hairstyle and makeup of the era it is easy to understand why everyone either wanted to paint her, photograph her, or quite simply be her. She spent most of the 1920’s as a dear companion of the artist Man Ray, as well as being a successful artist in her own right. She was known for being continually optimistic and free-spirited and is regarded as one of the first truly independent women.

Kiki de Montparnasse

Just to look at Kiki de Montparnasse, you can see the confidence twinkling in her eyes and a smile continually twitching at her lips. She just looks like she always had fun, unadulterated, uninhibited fun. Have you ever had a friend like that? I have, and she has never failed to pull me out of whatever bad mood I may be lurking in. It is also clear from reading about her that Kiki was an intelligent, creative woman who was successful and pioneering in her day.

Funny, exuberant, creative, intelligent and darn gorgeous to boot. Wouldn’t we all like to be a little more like that? Well when I wear ‘Kiki’ I feel capable of being anyone I want to be…

As with all Vero.Profumo fragrances, the combination of notes are bizarre yet wonderful. They are perfumes which are also quite difficult to deconstruct as the notes all swell together and swirl about in a superbly seamless way. In ‘Kiki EdP’ the first impression is of a puff of sweet floral, which quickly forms itself into a Pom Pom of lavender, fluffy, light and slightly dry. The lavender does a lovely little dance through dry, fresh, sweet and soapy before being swept into a wave of juicy passion fruit, a delightful confection of tiny purple flower heads and black gooey seeds floating in sticky sweet nectar. In ‘Onda EdP’ I found the passionfruit to be slightly too bodily, but here it is fruity and sweet and sits so perfectly next to the lavender that I marvel at Vero Kern’s ingenious mind.

I really love lavender, but too much of it, especially in perfume, is an immediate turn off for me. I find it to be quite a medicinal scent, I use it in a medicinal way, so in perfumery it tends not to push any of the right buttons. In Kiki, however, the lavender is dressed in such a way as to make all it’s other qualities really shine. ‘Kiki’s caramel note is quite pronounced on my skin and I adore it because it balances everything out perfectly. The lavender isn’t allowed to become too dry and sharp, instead staying in that wonderful, fluffy, floral, slightly green form that it has when it’s just bloomed. The passionfruit keeps on the right side of sweet and juicy, never slipping into that overripe fetidness that I disliked in ‘Onda’. The caramel is smooth and golden and mouthwateringly good, just totally delicious.

Once the caramel has fully developed the fruity juices subside a little and the perfume starts to take on a slightly drier quality, although I find it to be more of a sweet powdery dryness rather than the sharp dryness of lavender. I am reminded of toffee Bon Bons, rolled in lavender sugar and served in a finely patterned china bowl. ‘Kiki EdP’ again causes me to contradict myself as I never normally enjoy overly powdered scents, but I truly love this. It is delicate yet bold, flirty yet passionate, intentionally frivolous and wickedly fun. My only sadness is that the EdP doesn’t last on my skin. 3 hours and it’s gone, leaving behind only the faded scraps of it’s beautiful party dress. Thank god for the Extrait…..

Unlike ‘Onda’, I didn’t find ‘Kiki Extrait’ to be a darker face of it’s EdP sister. It is essentially the same, except that I found the fruitiness replaced far sooner with the luxurious caramel. I wonder if maybe the Extrait doesn’t have passionfruit at all and the fruitiness this time comes more from bergamot and geranium. The lavender still has that wonderful light sweetness that I find so special and all is smothered in delicious caramel. The development of ‘Kiki’ is much more languid and rich in the extrait and it has an impressive longevity, lasting all day and into the evening, albeit a close skin scent by the time the sun set. I spritzed some on a scarf too, now that the weather is turning, and that scarf is still humming ‘Kiki’s song, days later.

I don’t think I have found a perfume thus far that has quite as much fun as ‘Kiki’ seems to have, whilst also retaining it’s elegance and poise. I do like a sweet gourmand but often find them to be a bit silly and young. I live in a university city and it seems that every female student is wearing Prada ‘Candy’ at the moment. I am bored to tears with it. ‘Kiki’ is like the infinitely more worldly wise and sophisticated older sister, who is capable of having way more fun and not having to be dragged from the floor of the club when it closes. ‘Kiki’ arrives in style, charms everyone in the room with her wit and her wicked smile, sets the dance floor alight then retreats to the balcony to talk art and culture, while the young ones stumble drunkenly into eachother in the sickly sweet gloom.

‘Kiki’ is a queen. She will whisk you up into happiness and set you down again wrapped in caramel kisses and dusted with lavender confetti. I wish I had known this perfume when I got married. I would have worn it. It is pure happiness in a bottle for me. ‘Kiki’ je t’aime.

Serge Lutens ‘De Profundis’

de profundis

Serge Lutens is an extraordinary man. Kafkaesque has written a two part biographical piece on his early life and works, which I found fascinating. May I suggest that you take some time to read it as there is no better reference point from which to start if you want to know about Lutens. The writing there collates more concisely than I ever could the story of this man’s life and I would only be repeating great chunks of it here.

It seems that whatever medium Serge Lutens works in, his urgent creativity pushes the boundaries of design and twists the onlooker’s mind in uncomfortable directions. And there is no better medium for manipulation than scent.

Lutens and the perfumer Christopher Sheldrake are artists working under a global spotlight of casual art lovers. Lutens does not endeavour to be understood and praised for his fragrances. The majority of his audience want a perfume they can wear, rather than admire as art. I am impressed with this man’s intellectual ferocity, to produce the work for himself is enough, that others love it and puzzle over it is by the by.

I found the most resonant part of the Kafkaesque article to be about Luten’s mother. Her absence and her continual hold over his creative work. To lift a quote used in the article:

 “Serge Lutens’s discoveries since the early 60′s have become historic land-marks in womens’ beauty and womens’ lives. “In this woman’s life,” Serge insists. He hates when you talk about women. That says it all. For him, it’s “this woman,” his own double, whom he reinvents in every photograph, dress, makeup, makeup design, or perfume.”

This Woman’s Life. Just the one woman, recreated over and over in as many different forms as it is possible for a woman to have. This struck a chord with me as I always find I personify perfumes, give them form, features and mannerisms so they might better communicate their message. I have found whilst reviewing Lutens perfumes that they are all women, or maybe, now I know, just the one woman. His mother, imagined in a hundred ways. In ‘Vitriol d’Oeillet‘ she is the perfect, ice cold hatred of a woman scorned, in ‘Amber Sultan’ she is the goddess. In ‘De Profundis’…..

It is widely discussed that the scent of ‘De Profundis’ does not match it’s long and sombre back story. Described as a chrysanthemum soliflore, a flower that in some cultures is used purely as a funeral flower. I make no personal connection between the two, for me chrysanthemums smell wonderfully cheerful, so I would agree with the general consensus that ‘De Profundis’ is a contradiction. However, Monsieur Lutens surely knows this, so for me it is more a case of understanding this contradiction, rather than writing it off as existential self indulgence.

‘From the depths’ as it translates from Latin, is the name given to the epistle written by Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment in 1897. It’s title was given after Wilde’s death and was taken from Psalm 130, another cry from the depths of despair. Which was more inspiring for Lutens when he was making ‘De Profundis’ is unclear, although it is well known that he is an admirer of Oscar Wilde. In the lengthy back story for ‘De Profundis’ Lutens also says:

 “In French, the words beauty, war, religion, fear, life and death are all feminine, while challenge, combat, art, love, courage, suicide and vertigo remain within the realm of the masculine.

Clearly, Death is a Woman. Her absence imposes a strange state of widowhood. Yet beauty cannot reach fulfillment without crime.”

Here she is again. The Woman. This time wreathed in blooms that breathe sweet, green beauty into crystalline air. This woman so adorned would speak, and here is what she has to say……

I am still. And time passes below my line of vision, sun and moon playing chase around this blue green world. I see before and I see after, now is inconsequential. It is a small thing and will float like a fallen leaf on the surface, until the water flows away. Now is no small thing for you, my dear, do not think I don’t understand. Now is all you know. It is but the blink of an eye, my love, and over just in time to make way for the new. Do not sink below the water, spin and whirl in the currents, little fallen leaf, be joyful.

I am still. And fear is but a single grain of sand in my vast palm. It is a small thing and will be blown away, hurtling in the wind until the fragments disappear. Fear is no small thing for you, sweet one, do not think I have not felt it’s pointed blade myself. It is but a passing shadow, my beloved, and already skittering away in the dawn’s light. Do not dread the new day, laugh and stride out, adventurer, be brave.

I am still. And fighting leaves only a scratch in my memory. A battle is a small thing and every army marches forth like a ripple in this eternal lake, to break itself upon my shores. War is no small thing for you, loved one. Do not think I do not know it’s devastation. It is but a playground struggle for power, darling, and already resolved in the anticipation of a new game. Do not fight your fellows, soldier, be at peace.

I am still. And one day I will come for you. It is the way of things and every person I have met has seen the world from where I stand, before they choose a path. This is no small task, my dearest love, do not take for granted all that I have lost so that I might help you now. It is but another beginning, oh blessed one, and whilst you move ahead to start again, I will stand and watch the wheel of life for all eternity. Come with happiness, and fill my broken heart with love. Do not fear me, do not fight me, this is not your only end….

‘De Profundis’ blooms so fragrantly into life on the skin that at first I am completely lifted out of my sombre expectations into the bright air of morning atop a mountain. I won’t even try to explain which notes I am smelling, I’ll only give impressions. ‘De Profundis’ demands a more instinctual than intellectual reaction, which is interesting given the intellectual natural of it’s creator. Flowing, ethereal flower veils drifting on a breath as pure as the first dew, the newest green shoots pushing skinny tendrils through the earth, a bed stuffed with hungarian goose down and draped with silks as fine as angels hair, creamy soft leather babies shoes, tumbling hay bales…. All these moments like crystal spheres hanging weightless in the vast expanse of time.

I understand that the above is a profound statement to make about a perfume, but I can think of no better way to describe how truly vast the scope of this fragrance is. It weaves and swoops and soars on wings spread wide for the first minutes of it’s life on my skin, floral, green, airy bright and fuzzy warm. Bizarrely beautiful. A woman wreathed in diaphanous mist, plucking all your most tender thoughts from your mind and hanging them before you like glass baubles. This woman with sad eyes and distracted beauty, settling into your soul and searching out your true meaning.

‘De Profundis’ does settle after a while, and warms and smoothes and comforts, maybe to distract you from the more sombre colours rising beneath. The feeling now is less vast and more deep. Deep and darkening into purple storm clouds. It is somnambular, drifting and unsettling. The veil between worlds is thin here. I understand more at this point where Lutens intended direction is for this perfume. It may well be about death, but abstracted and far removed from the intense loss of an individual. I feel that it may be more about choosing your next path when this one comes to an end, following the angel of death into the mists and emerging on the other side to start again.

It is too beautiful a perfume to be solely about loss, and the ceremony of loss. This is no funeral dirge. ‘De Profundis’ is transcendental and speaks to me of a mind already considering the next life. Maybe Lutens is not afraid of death and makes her beautiful so that others will not fear her either.

I become lost as I wear this scent, lost inside my own mind and the mind of Serge Lutens. When I emerge out of my reverie I force myself to consider ‘De Profundis’ as others will view it, a chrysanthemum soliflore of ambiguous description. Yet it is still singing softly on my skin and I remain convinced of it’s singular beauty. A tremulous mourning flower adrift in the ever flowing current of life. Or the woman with sad eyes standing still among the mists of time. It pulls me back into it’s profundity over and over, it is a truly introspective scent and not one to wear when you need to be proactive. I found it most enjoyable at night, when the whole bed became a raft of soft petals and smoothness, carrying me away into the twilight.

As much as I found ‘De Profundis’ extremely moving, I am glad to say that I did not find it melancholy. Unsettling, yes, and undoubtably a little sombre in its undercurrents, but it is dressed so well with beauty and life that the weight is lightened to become a comforting arm around your shoulder, rather than the heavy drag of fear. Maybe others will not find nearly so many depths as I have, but I jumped willingly down the rabbit hole and was not disappointed.

I know that ‘De Profundis’ will remain one of the most beautiful and thought provoking perfumes I have experienced for a long time.

Dear Monsieur Lutens,

I will never truly know what meaning the perfume had for you personally, or whether my over-active imagination has created a story you never meant to be imagined….I think that however this perfume is perceived is part of the artistry for you. To make the armour then hand it over to me to be worn in my battle through life. I can assure you that when I wear this perfume no battle ensues . It is a profoundly moving dream and one I intend to have over and over again…

Von Eusersdorff ‘Classic Myrrh’

Myrrh

So here we are, the forth and final review of Von Eusersdorff’s classic collection. It has been a very interesting change of pace for me to review the whole collection rather than just picking my favourites, but I felt it was important to better understand how the perfumes all relate to one another.

As you have probably noticed I like to dedicate a good number of words to a perfume and I don’t tend to review fragrance that I really haven’t enjoyed. I believe that it is such a personal experience that for every one person that doesn’t enjoy it, there will be at least two that will. Who am I to tell someone why they won’t like something? All I can offer is my experience and if it hasn’t been good then is it really worth sharing? I do not have enough experience to class myself as a critic.  Out of the four Von Eusersdorff perfumes there has only been one that I didn’t enjoy personally and that was the ‘Classic Vetiver’. But that is because I just don’t like vetiver. However, it was undoubtably a well crafted perfume and it didn’t seem right to leave a gap in the series, so it was a learning curve to write about something that didn’t do it for me for a change! I am relieved to say that I found the experience of ‘Classic Myrrh’, far more pleasant, a mesmerizing scent filled with echoing notes of incense and warm woods.

‘Classic Myrrh’ is a seamlessly stitched portrayal of an eastern temple. Myrrh, as you would expect, is present immediately, sweet and resinous. There is a citrus note sparkling away too, although it is gentle and serves to emphasise the sweet incense. I have experienced a few Myrrh fragrances, one I particularly enjoyed being ‘La Liturgie des Heures’ from Jovoy. Where that perfume was cold and sombre and full of winter light, ‘Classic Myrrh’ is warm and far more oriental in nature.

The incense here is still burning, wisps of smooth smoke curling up into the wooden rafters of the temple. A golden Buddha is seated upon a pedestal, hung all over with flower garlands. Offerings of food wrapped in leaves sit before his feet and the constant resonance of a singing bowl spreads it’s one note into the silence.

‘Classic Myrrh’ has a really spacious feel, the smokey sweet myrrh and possibly what might be musky amber could potentially become cloying but is enriched with what I believe is Oud. There is absolutely no sharpness to it, just a wonderful, rounded orb of living wood which is almost animalic. Von Eusersdorff have again achieved that beautiful smoothness and perfect finish that is present in all their perfumes. I am coming to the conclusion that it’s the very clever use of patchouli through the range that brings all the scents together in such a harmonious manner.

Black patchouli is present again in ‘Classic Myrrh’, this time with a dualistic effect. I am reminded of patchouli’s more herbal, dry floral side in this perfume, but also it’s juicy, dark stickiness that I love so much. The floral aspect makes the scent even more atmospheric and spiritual, whereas the darker juices amp up the Oud and woods, adding depth and smokey warmth. Out of the four Classic perfumes, this is the one with the most longevity. It has a very persistent presence that I was aware of all day long, it seemed that the longer I wore it the stronger it became. ‘Classic Myrrh’ seems very reactive to body heat, when I was out and about in the sun it was sweeter and more filled with top citrus notes, amber and myrrh, when I was resting at home I noticed the darker heart woods seeping through the smoke.

As with all fragrance, whether you love something enough to wear it on your skin is your own personal decision, but as I have said before, one cannot deny when a perfume has been crafted using superb quality ingredients and genuine passion. I really enjoy incense-filled perfume in the same way that I enjoy going to fancy dress parties. It’s a costume, a disguise. I revel in the experience of it but the next day it’s a relief to become yourself once more. I am impressed with ‘Classic Myrrh’ but it is not a perfume that I could wear comfortably in many circumstances. I know plenty of incense lovers who will adore this for it’s resinous, almost crystalline sweetness and it’s impressive sillage.

The winner from this collection for me definitely has to be the ‘Classic Patchouli’. I love it, my husband loves it, people have commented on how lovely it is when I wear it (which I can promise you rarely happens to me, even though I’m permanently doused in perfume!) This is the one that I will be saving to buy a bottle of. It is timeless and elegant and I just feel good when I wear it.

Von Eusersdorff’s new fragrance, ‘Classic Orange’ will be debuting on 27th September at Jovoy in Paris. If it has the same class and sophistication of the original four then we should expect great things. I’m very much looking forward to wrapping my nose around it….