Tag Archives: Perfume

The Architects Club- Arquiste

Architects Club

Arquiste is a fragrance house constructed around a single strong ideal. Curated by Carlos Huber, an architect specialising in historic preservation, the brand focuses upon moments in time; each perfume designed to capture an olfactory vignette, a scented snapshot from history.

My first introduction to Arquiste came in the form of The Architects Club, the newest release created in collaboration with perfumer Yann Vasnier and one that I have become most infatuated with. I’m excited to explore the whole line in more detail as this sort of perfumed storytelling greatly appeals to me. The Arquiste website describes The Architects Club in vivid strokes:

Cocktail time, March 1930, London. A group of architects gather for cocktails at Mayfair’s smartest Art Deco smoking room. As they settle in the warm interior of dark woods, leather and velvet, London’s bright young things burst in, frosted martinis in hand, surrounded by a cloud of laughter, white smoke and fine vanilla.

The note list includes Juniper berry oil, Angelica root, Lemon peel oil, Bitter Orange, Pepperwood, Guaiac wood, Oakwood, Vanilla Absolute and Amber. 

Sometimes I find that living with a fragrance for a while can change my understanding of it. I’ve been tempted to sit down and write about The Architects Club ever since I received the sample but for some reason I’ve been holding the words back. I now realise that whatever I might have chosen to write two months ago would be markedly different to the description I’m now contemplating. The weather has turned wintry and the perfume has different qualities in the chill gloom of late autumn, ones that I feel suit it better.

The scent begins it’s life in a tall glass of juniper, tumbled with ice and lemon wedges. The top notes do not sparkle as many cocktail citruses can; it’s not a fizzy, alcoholic sensation but one of clarity and brightness; of polished bar tops and buffed-­up brass. It’s a smooth, hushed opening of leather shoes whispering over velvet carpets and the genteel tinkling of iced tumblers.

This smooth, bright beginning brings warmth into the room with it from amber and vanilla, which both sit down comfortably at the bar alongside that chilly juniper. Citrus and sweetness are a winning combination in my book, yet here it should be stressed that there is not a hint of lemon meringue. Incredibly elegant soufflé maybe, light as air and only for grownups. The Architects Club does sweeten swiftly onto the skin but amber does an excellent job of evoking fireside warmth and flushed cheeks, as apposed to a more gourmand effect.

It’s the woody qualities of the perfume that I have found to be most disparate now the winter has arrived. During the late summer months, The Architects Club became a vanilla haze with gentle touches of brand new leather. I believe I likened it to a heavenly cloud, one to float through the day on in fluffy comfort. The chilled temperature of my skin has now slowed the development of the fragrance right down, only reaching the fluffy cloud in the dying stages. There is a whole new phase of the perfume appearing, one which is all about smoke and dark wood. I love the amber and vanilla together, gold and orange with a green citrus trail. Those woods are deep and polished and impregnated with the smoke of a thousand cigars. One can almost imagine beaded gowns, twinkling in the firelight, brushing against velvet seat covers and gentleman’s leather gloves.

The Architects Club is mightily restrained for a fragrance featuring the exuberant and raucous glamour of 1930’s youth. However we must remember that Carlos Huber is first and for most an architect himself. The perfume isn’t about people, it’s about place. Art Deco design is bold, clean and still, yet opulent and inviting. The Architects Club is an accurate rendering of this in olfactory form, if that’s how you choose to think about it as you wear it. In the warmer weather this conceptual imagery was somewhat lost on me, I felt more as if I was enveloped in a whipped mist of fuzzy yellow. Now I’m enjoying the depths of the scent so much more; the amber and woods glow and the juniper and bitter citrus seem in sharper, cooler contrast.

The Architects Club is a delightful fragrance whatever the weather, but for me it is a perfume for colder days and a slightly introspective mood. It’s a subtle piece of work that needs a little time to express it’s full intent. Thank goodness I have a large sample, I wouldn’t want to be without this at the moment.

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Red and Gold- ‘Tardes’ by Carner

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Some perfumes splash themselves exuberantly onto the skin with raucous fanfare, others slide sensual fingers across pulse points like an amorous lover. Some rage and rip at the nerves, others soothe and sedate a frayed mind. And there are some that leave a body cold. Fragrance is a provocation; an insistent plea to feel and taste and remember those fleeting sensory experiences that otherwise one might deem unworthy of a second thought. It is a bright enhancement- or possibly an unwelcome shadow- that paints the cloak of skin upon which it glistens. All is coloured.

Occasionally one encounters a fragrance that needs no fanfare, no seductive powers, no shock tactics. Once released from the bottle it simply settles over the soul like a blanket of sweet calm, all cherry red and gold. I have found my cloud nine fragrance recently, the gorgeous Tardes from Barcelona-based perfume house Carner. The website has a beautiful description of the scent which begins thus:

“A tribute to the peace and harmony of a late summer afternoon; a fragrance that is pure, serene and enveloping.”

That is certainly is. I’ve been living quietly with this scent through some rather hectic and unsettling moments recently. I’ve worn it and watched the seasons change and turn towards the close of the year. This is my favourite time, when the nights draw in and the air is chilled and the russet leaves dance on invisible rip tides all the way to the ground. Tardes has been everything I needed it to be; a confidence boost, a security blanket, a calming hand upon my furrowed brow. I have also received the most compliments I have ever had whilst wearing it, which is always a happy thing.

I am unsure whether to class this fragrance as a true gourmand, although it has all the elements to suggest that it might be. With top notes of Egyptian Geranium, Bulgarian Rose, Rosewood and Almond, A heart of Virginian Cedar Wood, Celery and Plum and a base of Venezuelan Tonka Bean, Musk and Heliotrope, one can imagine a boozy patisserie confection good enough to sink hungry teeth into. However edible Tardes may appear on paper, the actuality of the fragrance on my skin is far more nuanced and multifaceted, drying down to a soft, hazy grassland in the afternoon sun.

 

It absolutely begins with the mouthfeel; sweet almond liqueur and delightfully ripe red juices, oozy and boozy with a jammy rose petal crown. There is a deeper, unctuous drizzle from the tonka and a heliotrope hit of almond/cherry pastries. This might be where Tardes falls down for some people as it has an almightily sweet opening. However, I urge you greatly to stick with it because after the initial sensation of drowning in syrup, something exquisite happens.

Yes, all the sweetness is still there, but the roses start to sing higher above the patisserie chorus, as does a sharper geranium. The effect is to pull the fragrance up and outward, making it feel somehow like a fluffy, cherry coloured cloud rather than a deeply sticky dessert. I adore cherries. There is something titivating about those luscious orbs, ripe to bursting under crisp, fresh skins. No cherry-centric fragrance ever really smells like the uncooked and unsweetened fruit, it is usually the case that a heliotrope/almond fragrance goes in the direction of cherry pie. In Tardes there is a definite hint of cherry, yet it refrains from becoming plastic cherry chapstick. Instead the tartness and an impression of glorious ruby red is all that lingers.

As the perfume warms it becomes increasingly dry. Rather like the scent is brought upon a warm breeze. There also appears an intriguing savoury note, combined with a growing woodiness that really controls the perfume’s sweeter tendencies. It is at this point that I start to fall deeply in love. The savoury, woody quality is so harmoniously sewn together with the sweet almond, plum and heliotrope. This must be the celery; such a flavoursome ingredient when used in cooking, the effect it has in Tardes is to intensify and emphasise the seemingly opposing parts of the fragrance and bring them together in perfect harmony. I think really it has to be experienced to be understood fully.

At the very end of the perfume’s life, I find it to be a rather atmospheric cloud of red and gold with darker shadows. The savoury celery and woods create the idea of dry grasses, warmed in the last rays of sunshine. The tonka, almond and heliotrope still make up the main body of the fragrance’s sweetness but it’s all soft, dreamy edges now, a memory of it’s boozy beginnings. I can’t resist an atmospheric perfume and although to begin with Tardes appears to be a one trick pony, the development of that fascinating contrast between red sweet juice, golden nuttiness and shadowed woods lends it such depth and intrigue.

I am always going to have a little bit of extra appreciation for a gourmand fragrance, I’m just wired that way. What blows me away about Tardes is the intensity of colour I perceive from it and the juxtaposition of sweet and savoury, crafted with skill to great effect. I find it an excellent statement perfume, it brightens me up as effortlessly as the perfect shade of red lipstick. I also feel sort of protected inside it’s fragrant cloud, the unexpected blows of life arrive to me slightly softened.

I would highly recommend this fragrance to gourmand and fruity fragrance lovers, but also to those who enjoy sweet florals. I think Tardes will probably behave very differently depending on skin chemistry too. I have ranked this ruby red beauty amongst my favourite gourmand perfumes which include Frapin 1270 and Mona Di Orio Vanille. I shall also be exploring far more heliotrope fragrances, that almond patisserie goodness is a little too hard to resist…

Vero Profumo ‘Rozy’

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I’ve been reading about Anna Magnani a lot recently. I wanted to be prepared for Vero Kern’s long awaited perfume Rozy, dedicated to the Italian actress and taking it’s name from the film ‘The Rose Tattoo’ that won her all manner of awards for best actress in the 1950’s. She is described as a woman of great vitality; her performances boiling with raw emotion and her personal life just as tempestuous and fiery.

I can see why Vero has made Magnani her muse for her latest creation. The actress, with her soul shining painfully bright through eyes that sparkle with mirth one moment and sorrow the next. She had such a sense of stark reality about her, something that one doesn’t often see in the polished aloofness of golden Hollywood stars. Her face was angular and atypical of beauty at that time, it’s lines carved by an intensity of emotion and understanding that seems to radiate through the screen, even now.

Vero herself has that same vitality. Although I was not one of the ones lucky enough to meet her at Bloom Perfumery earlier this month, I can sense through the warmth of her messages to me that she is a woman carved and made beautiful by her experience. She is of that rare breed of person who never forgets to say thank you, to ask after your family, even when life is hectic and there are hundreds of other things clamoring for attention. This innate understanding of how important it is to be personally involved in a project comes across in every single one of her perfumes. They all share the same vitality, the notion that one is smelling a person wearing a perfume rather than just the perfume itself. From the bottle escapes all the warmth, all the secret thoughts and movements of a human body. Vero’s fragrances inhabit you, sink into your skin and change you with the emotions suspended between molecules.

Onda, Rubj, Kiki and Mito are jewels with many different facets. Rosy is no different. It seems that Vero feels she cannot portray everything she wants to in just one version of a scent. Each perfume is like a complex being of light and shade, capable of expressing a vast array of emotion; therefor it must have a number of different incarnations. To my mind, all of Vero’s scents are women. I don’t mean that they are feminine fragrances, I mean that in my imagination they become characterised as strong female figures. Each concentration is like a sibling; the brightness and the wickedness.

The Eau de Parfums feel most like a full characterisation. Their attributes are all to be found within the dark glass of the beautiful bottles. For example; Onda is overly sexual, warmed by sun and sea spray; Kiki is frivolous and fun, a flapper girl at a party; Rubj is fully loaded with night blossoms and spice, seductive in the candle light; Mito is a sparkling green fountain, a walk through a beautiful garden.

The Extraits tend to exaggerate the perfumes deeper, darker side. The wicked sibling. Onda’s sexiness turns to smoke and bondage in the night; Kiki’s sweet powder grows languorous with caramel; Rubj’s white petals become dangerously intoxicating; Mito slips from her marble font into patent heels and knocks back the tequila with lime and road dust.

The Voile d’Extraits are the elemental qualities of the perfume, plucked out and suspended. The Voiles contain the most light and shade, transparent yet brightly coloured. The soul sibling. One might think that the Voiles are the most gentle incarnation but I have not found that to be the case at all. They sing from the skin in vivid soprano, somehow both sheer and dense, light and intensely pigmented. I don’t know how Vero has achieved this but the resulting fragrances are quite  exceptional. It is a mark of true dedication and understanding that a fragrance can have multiple facets and reflect in every one the passion and emotion of it’s maker, never losing any integrity or drama.

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So. To Rozy. I have been waiting and waiting for Vero’s rose. There was never any doubt that it would be special, as everything she produces is. There has been a lot of anticipation and buzz surrounding the launch and already many rave reviews are appearing. I’m sure that there have been people wondering when the first bad review will appear, there being a need for balance in all things. I think anyone who reads this blog will know that I don’t tend to write critically. I try to be truthful, but always with a poetic bent. Onda was not an easy perfume for me, neither was Rubj in it’s EdP and VdE forms. I do, however, own a bottle of Rubj Extrait which enchants me over and over again, such is the power of Vero’s fragrances and their contrasting characters. With Rozy I have been utterly charmed, darkly intrigued and slightly repulsed. Like sisters from a twisted fairy tale, Rozy has led me by the hand into the dark recesses of a bloody chamber, then run with me like dawn breaking across the sky. Light and dark, skin and sin, blood and beauty.

Let’s start with the Voile d’Extrait. It opens with an almighty blast of powerful rose and tuberose with an almost medicinal steeliness to it. The fragrance is cold in my nostrils and although I recognise all the elements that I’m smelling, I somehow struggle to reconcile them with my preconceptions. I have never smelled a rose in quite this way before. It is seductive and suggestive of hidden dangers. There is an undercurrent of vivid anger, the tuberose is slashed flesh beneath the roses thorns. A fruitiness develops with sharp cassis, turned more lethal with spices. Beneath this runs the powdered honey that is so synonymous with Vero’s perfumes. In this wicked form the honey soothes nothing, instead acting as a lubricant for the rose’s velveteen seduction, a steely blade tucked into a garter around her thigh. The fragrance rolls forth from the skin with intense power and ferocity. When the sandalwood appears it takes on the suggestion of incense, intoxicating and dark at the edges. Rozy grows more leathered and resinous as it develops, the rose losing all it’s early purity and instead becoming dark, almost sticky sweet with honey and hot, torn flesh. Something slightly fetid lurks in the very depths of the perfume. It is not as prominent as it is in Onda, but nonetheless it appears, sending a shiver through the scent.

The overwhelming impression from Rozy Voile d’Extrait is of seduction, anger and wild passion, of destruction. A rose is such a powerful symbol and a scent which has been expressed over and over throughout history. Here the Rose is slowly sensual yet furious; viciously sexy, she makes no pretence at being refined or controlled. Dark hair flying and nails sharp as thorns, she rages at you with eyes like deepest dungeons, would rip you to shreds as she kisses you brutally with blood velvet lips. The scent of her skin is present in the honey and spices, urgent, hot and intense. Yet her anger is also cold as a razor, the medicinal tang present in the beginning does fade, but leaves behind an almost seared edge, like a frozen dagger into a swollen heart.

There is an undeniable beauty in Rozy Voile d’Extrait. For all the contradictions within the scent it is never discordant. It has a sharpness that chimes above the boudoir petals, a dangerous tone filled with unspoken vitriol. This is a rose as only Vero could do it. Filled with raw emotion and vitality. It is a scorned woman filled with dark intent and predatory want, a dagger in her hand. I found it to be almost too potent, although I have heard a number of other people mark it out as their favourite. The Eau de Parfum is the one that has a firm hold over my heart, and although it is also built around the same rose, it couldn’t be more different.

Rozy Eau de Parfum opens with a luxurious puff of powdered honey and nectar filled blossoms. It has a wonderfully vintage, golden feel to it straight away, lightly dusted, tanned skin beneath a silk gown. As the scent warms a glow of fruitiness appears, peachy and delicious, ripe with passionfruit. It’s at this point that a very beautiful counterbalance between moist juice and pollen filled floral occurs, staying put for the whole of the perfume’s development.

The rose doesn’t make an appearance straight away in Rozy EdP, rather she waits behind a screen of lilacs, peaches and honey dust until the opening scene had been played out. When she takes a step forward she is radiant, in full bloom and warm from the sun. I don’t find the rose to be the most prominent part of the fragrance, rather she is the structure upon which the other components dance, tumbling amid her petals, yet if she wasn’t there the whole scent would blow away in the breeze.

Rozy has a most pleasing sensation of a deep layer of powder upon a polished surface, super fine and so soft that when one lightly presses a fingertip into it, the only proof that it’s been touched is the fingerprint left behind. There is certainly a kind of powder-compact, lipstick quality that I usually would flinch at, yet here somehow it’s not offensive to me at all. I think that superb balance between fruitiness and floral together with the golden honey, keeps the powder from sticking in my throat.

Rozy Eau de Parfum is the golden sibling, with all the charm and charisma of a true star. While her Voile sister rages in the shadows, this rose blossoms in the growing light of morning, crowned with lilacs and smiling her beautiful smile. Whilst Vero’s trademark warm skin note is detectable here too, it smells like polished, clean skin rather than the sexual pungency present in the Voile. The passionfruit is ripe but not turning, the honey is sweet and abundant without becoming fetid.

It is a superbly classy fragrance, classy in the best kind of way. Rozy EdP is naturally charming and beautiful, vivacious and splendid, without having to try. She is entirely herself and everyone loves her for it.

I know that a lot of people will be drawn to the Voile d’Extrait because it has punch, a fuller, more dangerous character with that unmistakable Vero Profumo twist of honey, passionfruit and sex. I know that my friend The Silver Fox will wear the Voile with unashamed abandon, shrouding himself in it’s shadowed purple haze like a cloak of sensuality. I need a little restraint in my fragrances. I need to feel as if I am still myself within the perfumed cloud. Vero has an uncanny ability to make scents that seem to possess me and whilst that is intriguing for the purposes of creative writing, it makes them somewhat difficult for me to wear on a regular basis. Rozy EdP is perfect because whilst it has all the qualities that I adore about Vero’s scent-making, it is also extremely wearable. It makes me feel grown up and classy, which for someone who is often mistaken for a teenager is very important.

Rozy is a perfume full of golden light, yet holds enough weight to last for hours on the skin and stay true until the very end. I imagine that for evening, layering a little of the Voile over the EdP would produce a deeper, slightly more full bodied scent, without letting Rozy’s dark side become too prominent. Unless that’s what you’d prefer of course. Whichever incarnation you think would suit you most, I defy you not to become spellbound by this profoundly real and vital perfume. Just as the maker and her muse possess the power to express emotion in the most human of ways, so do these wonderful fragrances.

 

 

Papillon Perfumery: Smoke, Roses and Powdered Herbs.

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Liz Moores, perfumer and founder of Papillon Perfumery, is probably one of the most approachable and engaging new artisans that I have had the pleasure of conversing with so far on my perfumed journey. Her three debut fragrances; Anubis, Tobacco Rose and Angelique, are due to be launched in the summer of this year and there have already been some lovely reviews about them. The Silver Fox and The Candy Perfume Boy have both written about this new brand and Liz’s undeniable creativity, flair and skill as a perfumer; I am in complete agreement with them. Here we have a trio of perfumes, each with their own strong identity, created with a passion and intelligence that shines through the autumnal hued juices like a bright star. They are complex, non conformist fragrances that challenge the senses, yet they are all versatile, wearable perfumes. There is some serious talent at work here.

anubis

The three fragrances each have their own magic. Anubis, although not to my personal taste, is a deeply ancient concoction of smoke, fleshy blooms and leather that is so intense in it’s imagery that one feels firmly transported into the elaborately constructed tomb of an Egyptian Pharaoh.

This is a fragrance about reincarnation in every way, indeed the whole ethos of the brand is one of transformation, like the butterfly after which it is named. As the first fragrance Liz created, Anubis is the scent that represents her transformation into a perfumer; her relentless search for perfection and the numerous modifications that the fragrance went through to reach a point where she felt it was ready to unleash onto the skin of mortals. Featuring notes of Suede, Jasmine, Pink Lotus, Immortelle, Frankincense, Myrrh and Saffron, it has all the components that I find most challenging in a perfume: lashings of Myrrh and Frankincense, so rich that this scented aura is almost visible in the air; Jasmine in all it’s carnal glory, sweet lotus blossoms heavily woven through the pluming smoke from a golden incense burner. Anubis is the name for the Egyptian god of death in jackal form and there is a definite animalic thrust to the perfume, a leather note so slick with fragrant oils that it glimmers in the light from flaming torches.

Anubis is a heavy, powerful and intoxicating fragrance that will utterly bewitch perfume lovers who like their fragrance classically french in heft and atmospheric as the bowls of a pharaoh’s tomb. The warm, almost humidly sweet incense note is intensified and bolstered by that deep leather quality and the fleshy thwack of jasmine. It’s a perfume that terrifies me and one that I would love to smell on a gorgeous person in full evening wear, be that the textural decadence of silk and velvet or the ancient sensuality of golden amulets and oiled skin. It is a dress up scent and not one for the faint hearted.

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If Tobacco Rose doesn’t receive critical acclaim I might weep, because it is a perfume that has been so cleverly rendered that it has the potential to stand it’s ground amid the greats. Created with a vision of overblown roses in their final flourish of life, Tobacco Rose is a perfume of moistness and dryness, sweetness and bitter bark, delicacy and a beautiful death. A transformative journey from bud to brittle stem.

Liz has taken the classic portrait of a freshly plucked rose and twisted it’s reflection towards the inevitable withering of petals and leaves. Using notes of Bulgarian Rose, Rose Centiflora, Oakmoss, Beeswax, Hay and Ambergris, the scent opens in a plethora of rose, dewy, fleshly, blush pink and blood red. There is absolutely no doubting the quality at work here, this rose note is perfect.

Very soon a dryness develops, reminiscent of tangled grasses beneath bare feet on a hot day. The natural sweetness of hay and beeswax nudge the rose from her first bloom of youth into the full sun of midsummer. Still glorious; petals plumped out and velvet to the touch. This is how Tobacco Rose lingers for a while, until the oakmoss and mulch start to creep in. The sun is setting and our rose casts a shadow now, becoming slightly drooped and sleepy. The hay notes really start to take over, blending with the moistness of forest floor to create a beautiful contradiction of sensations; sunbaked yet loamy with dark earth; richly velveteen petals on the edge of decay; leaves crisp around a gently rotting heart.

As Tobacco Rose settles it’s rosiness breathes forth once more from the undergrowth, but this is now about a rose past it’s prime, a rose with memories of youth smoking on the skin like a charred diary page. The hay and beeswax remain as a slightly singed texture beneath dry petals that have wilted in the flame. Beneath that the mossy depths of a sleeping forest whisper softly. The end of Tobacco Rose is peaceful somehow, campfire smoke drifting up into the starry night.

All of this Liz has achieved with a concentration that is almost extrait in strength and very classical in construction. Yet it is so far from a traditional rose perfume, so juxtaposed with it’s contemporaries that really it needs a plinth all to itself. It is an absolute joy to wear, and we all know how fussy I am when it comes to roses. It is a versatile scent, perfect for day or night with impressive longevity and great projection. This is the perfume that I believe will be the most universally admired of the three. It is an exceptionally skilled and unusual twist on a classic structure that will have people inhaling with wonder.

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Where Tobacco Rose will unite, Angelique will divide. This is the fragrance that had me most captivated and I have continually danced between it’s ethereal soft beauty and strange greenness in a haze of puzzlement and pleasure. Using notes of Mimosa, Orris, White Champac, Frankincense, Osmanthus and Cedarwood, Angelique is singularly odd and wonderful. I love it.

Liz speaks about this perfume as the embodiment of an Iris Pallida flower bed in her garden, and also that she made the scent ‘with her children in mind’. The perfume begins with a savoury crush of herbs; frondy fennel, subtle minted freshness and rain washed limestone. It is most unexpected, almost chalky in texture yet light and airy. There is a sense of ‘otherness’ in this opening, strange and oddly familiar all at once. It is a highly unusual take on an iris fragrance, although the note’s powdered softness is present from the beginning. Angelique has an aniseed accord that is crisp and green at it’s heart but blurred around the edges by delicately dry floral notes of mimosa and orris.

As the scent warms it becomes sweeter, again in an almost gourmand way. Candied angelica, garden mint and a lovely apricot fuzziness from the Osmanthus. The Frankincense appears as much more controlled and delicate here than it does in Anubis, simply adding a deeper resonance to the perfume. It is a very quiet fragrance yet is in no way subdued or brooding. There is filtered light dancing across teardrop blue petals, a breeze drifting through swaying branches. It is a scent of outdoors; in the freshness of morning or a twilit scattering of evening stars, both images work beautifully.

I am continually drawn back to the feeling that Angelique reminds me of something. Implacable and fleeting, it has a familiarity and oddness that is unnerving at times. I have worn this scent over and over, at different times of the day, to work and to bed and it is only sitting here tonight as I write that I begin to realise what the perfume is so reminiscent of. The soft green and white of the scent conjures an abstract portrayal of youth; exquisitely perfect baby skin with it’s indescribable lactonic musk, an innocence and clarity of nature that one only sees in very young children. The ‘otherness’ often glimpsed in a child’s wide eyes as they look further than the restrictions of adulthood allow.

I believe that Liz has captured a feeling in this perfume, an emotional reaction that cannot adequately be described with words. Olfactory sense sometimes moves beyond our powers of communication and into a place that feels far more instinctual. Angelique somehow encapsulates that feeling of connectedness that a mother has with her child, the nostalgia an adult holds for the memory of their own childhood self. It is pure and clean and quiet, brightly innocent yet full of very human responses. The savoury effect of the aniseed accord triggers the salivary glands and the powdered iris is textural like skin. The gentle mint is herb sweetened breath and the floral/apricot accord brings a milky glow of sunshine. Angelique sparks across the senses in their most intuitive and highly tuned state, to the point where I found it almost impossible to adequately describe the familiarity of what I was smelling and how it made me feel.

It is a complex and intriguing scent with multi-faceted interpretations. Combining very sensory aspects of herbaceous plants, chalky stone and soft florals with sweetened fruit and milkiness is an odd yet inspired mix. It could be a perfume about nature and new things growing, or it could be about skin and sweet breath and emotional connections. Yet again there is a theme of re-creation and transformation here, of one thing evolving into another. I can imagine that Angelique will smell markedly different for one person than it will for another. I have noticed the scent lingering on my clothes to be much more floral than the effect of the fragrance on my skin; here it is more green with contrasting lactonic undertones. I cannot stop wondering over the fennel-like accord, it is prevalent on my pale skin but still beautifully balanced with iris dust. I sometimes find Iris hard to handle. I have experienced it before as very cloying, overpowering all other aspects of the fragrance. In Angelique the iris is reserved and plays a lovely counterpoint with the moist, ethereal greenness from the other notes. I found it to be a most haunting and singular perfume that took me a while to understand; now I feel like I should always have it in my collection.

Papillon Perfumery is a brand created with dedication by a very talented woman. It’s expertly rendered perfumes are supported by a strong identity and that feeling of luxury which is so important in the niche fragrance market. I am very much looking forward to the release of the perfumes this summer and to see Liz receive the acclaim that she deserves. All three will be successful I’m sure and no doubt there is more to come from this beautiful sorceress. Put Papillon on your ‘one to watch’ list. I’m putting Angelique on my shopping list.

Gorilla Perfume ‘The Smell of Weather Turning’

I have been waiting to write about this perfume for quite a while. I was first introduced to it whilst working for Lush and although the specific notes faded from my mind, ‘The Smell of Weather Turning’ left an indelible mark on my consciousness. I know that my memory of scent is sometimes skewed, altered by emotion and association. It can be a crushing blow to smell something again and realise that you’ve remembered it very differently. With this perfume I couldn’t remember the notes, just this feeling that it needed to be revisited, that I needed to spend some more time with it.

The manner in which the slim black vial of perfume arrived back into my hands, a gift from an old friend, has made smelling it again even more poignant.

Along with ‘Breath of God’- which made it into Luca Turin’s top 100 scents- ‘The Smell of Weather Turning’ is the most widely praised and sort after from the Gorilla Perfume line. It is described by almost every person who has reviewed it as ‘weirdly beautiful’. It is not a scent that is easily worn, it is more a scent to be spritzed onto skin and puzzled over. The combination of notes is intriguingly bizarre- oak wood, hay, beeswax, nettle, peppermint and roman chamomile. Green, dry, waxy sweet, menthol and herbal, looking at the note listing one would expect to be reminded of an old apothecary chest, filled with ancient remedies to cure ills. There are certain aspects of that within the perfume’s development but mostly I feel an almost visceral sense of time receding, sun and moon hurtling backwards across cloud darkened skies until I am transplanted into an imagined vision from long, long ago….

Somerset storm

‘Weather Turning’ opens with damp earth and grass, moss creeping across the brittle bark of a fallen tree. This decaying giant lies at the foot of a barrow, outside an entrance sealed by grey stone. Beyond the ridge the flat plains of Somerset stretch out toward rising hills in the distance, flood water reflecting the brooding clouds above. It is a bruised and tumultuous sky, blue-grey with inky smudges, rolling over the horizon with gathering menace. The wind whips around the barrow in chilly gusts as I climb, crushing the greenery beneath my rough shod feet.

The air is oddly still at the top, electric with an inaudible hum that is sensed rather than heard. Adrenalin crackles up my spine in anticipation. There is a farmstead at the edge of the plain below, woodsmoke from the fire drifts up to mingle with the scent of harvested crops. The tiny figures in the fields are rushing to load their carts, to bring the bales in before the heavens open. From my perch I watch them toil like ants beneath the gargantuan sky. I shudder as a distant rumble of thunder cracks the silence.

Although the rain is still far away, I pull my leather cloak more tightly around myself. It’s scent is tanned hide and last night’s campfire, thick and unyielding across my shoulders. It is a comfort to settle in beneath it’s weight, a talisman of protection against the elemental hugeness all around me. As the clouds brew up their storm of noise and drenching darkness, I watch the light scurry away behind the hills, the shadows deepen and the hairs on my arms prickle with primeval foreboding. Every inch of my being screams at me to take cover, but the terrifying beauty of nature when she is angry keeps me rooted to the top of the barrow. The bones in the earth beneath seem almost to judder with the thrill of it.

It seems to me that I am balanced on top of the world, a world about to be ravaged and soaked and split open by lightening. The first splintered flash stops my breath in my throat. In the sudden brightness the landscape jumps out in stark monochrome, a terrifyingly alien vision that sends me hurtling off the ridge towards the farm, down to the comfort of the fire and the shelter and the closeness of human bodies. Nature is too big and I am but a speck on the hillside…..

‘The Smell of Weather Turning’ brings to mind a number of unsettling dreams that I remember vividly from my childhood. I would be going about something normal like playing in the garden, when all of a sudden a low hum would begin to resonate through my dreamscape, bringing with it a terrifying sense of foreboding. Nothing would actually happen in these dreams except this, but I would wake in a panic, scared and disorientated. Later in life I have felt this in the atmosphere as a storm is brewing and I’ve learned to relish the anticipation, yet always as the thunder smashes overhead I feel a spike of real fear that sends me running for cover. That instinctual need for protection is never fully rationalised. The combination of herbal, woody and leathery notes in this perfume seems to trigger some response in me that feels distinctly primal, it touches a long dead nerve, sparking it back into life.

‘Weather Turning’ is an elemental fragrance, green with crushed herbs, fragrant with grasses and mosses, leathered and smoked in burnt umber hues. In it’s dying stages there is a comforting closeness about the scent which is quite at odds with it’s atmospheric opening. There is a feeling of human vs. nature in this perfume. It is about savage wild beauty and man’s existence within it. The leathery smokiness represents the small comfort of fire and shelter in a landscape of rolling earth and storm ridden skies.

Or, if you are less imaginatively inclined, it is a pleasantly green, slightly smoky herbal scent with a deeper leather accord running through the base. When I wear ‘The Smell of Weather Turning’ I’d much prefer to experience the whole story, even if it does vaguely terrify me. Another superbly weird creation from the house of Gorilla and one that really must be sought out by lovers of deeply earthy, aromatic perfumes. It may not be an easy fragrance to wear, it seems to sit rather uncomfortably in these modern times. But this is what sets it apart as unique, fascinating and definitely worth experiencing.

Shay and Blue- three bright spaces.

S&B Gifts

When one comes across a new niche perfume house with an incredibly strong visual identity, it is easy to jump to conclusions. I have had the misfortune of encountering a few such brands that have all the style and panache, all the engaging, intelligent blurb and enough hype to ignite a forest fire of interest in the perfumes. Sadly, the juice simply hasn’t been able to live up to the glowing picture rendered expertly by the PR company. The money has gone into the look and left very little for the product itself. At the other end of the spectrum there are extremely talented perfumers out there, creating beautiful fragrance, but with a limited budget and no commercial marketing experience the result is poor visual representation that turns the customer off before they’ve even caught a whiff of scent.

This is a particular pet peeve of mine. I have a background in Visual Communication, merchandising and sales, so I understand the need for intelligent advertising and attractive packaging. In fact I would encourage any artisan perfumer to get their brand looking good before they present it to the customer. Niche fragrance is all about luxury and pleasure, we want to feel that what we are buying is special- a little decadent and extravagant. In my piece about fragrant motivations, I’ve spoken about how sometimes I feel the importance of the ‘look’ far outweighs the actual quality of a fragrance, especially within the realms of fashion and beauty. I have been guilty of buying a fragrance because I liked the bottle in the past. Now however, I care far more about the perfume, it’s beauty and quality, the craftsmanship involved in it’s creation. It makes me very angry to see perfume houses fling huge sums of money in entirely the wrong direction because they know that with the right marketing it won’t matter how bad the perfume is, people will buy it. Where is the artistry in that?

S&B Founders

Shay and Blue, established in 2012, are a London based perfume house with fragrance veteran Dom De Vetta at the helm. With twenty years experience working at the very top for the likes of Chanel and Jo Malone, of course the Shay and Blue ‘look’ was going to be masterfully created and styled. And it really is a stunning looking brand. Powder blue packaging with striped ribbons and delicate aqua coloured bottles with golden tops. The typography is an intelligent and subtle blend of classical and modern, the photography a masterful, still life portrait of each perfume, surrounded by it’s key ingredients and styled to ooze sophistication and cool beauty. It’s all very, very well done and I am instantly intrigued. There is also a strong suggestion of artisanal exclusivity about Shay and Blue that I rather like, that ’boutique experience’ I enjoy so much when it comes to choosing perfume. The London boutique looks stunning, with it’s black and white tiled floors and richly hued interior of smoky blues and old wood….

Of course I have warning bells sounding in my head after becoming thoroughly jaded by past experience. Could the scents ever live up to my newly inflamed expectations? The six perfumes in the line have come with high recommendations from The Silver Fox, a man who’s nose I trust but who’s taste sometimes differs from my own. I ordered samples of ‘Almond Cucumber’, ‘Atropa Belladonna’ and ‘Amber Rose’. I’ve waited nearly a month for my sinuses to clear after a horrible cold and all the while the little blue packages have perched on my dressing table and quietly whispered to me about decadence and sophistication. The build up has been rather epic and may I say, thoroughly worth it.

Of the three fragrances I have tried there has been one big surprise, one rather hedonistic joy ride and one beautiful romance. Perfumer Julie Masse is an obviously talented and exciting new perfumer with style enough to match her fragrance’s gorgeous wrappings. Together Julie Masse and Dom De Vetta have created a strong theme throughout the perfumes, one that I can only really describe metaphorically.

If Shay and Blue is a fragrance house, then the fragrances themselves are rooms, each with it’s own stunning interior and filled with the voices and personalities of it’s notes. It is a Regency style house of the type built in my home town of Cheltenham, in the Cotswolds. Regency architecture in Cheltenham has a feel that you just don’t find anywhere else. Grand facades, like pale, square monoliths set within green, leafy spaces. Large, airy rooms, high ceilings, huge windows to let in all the light. I did not grow up in a house like this but I’ve always wanted to own one. That sense of light and space runs through all three of the Shay and Blue perfumes that I have sampled, along with a wonderfully controlled yet expressive imagery that just oozes class. I would happily spend time in all of these scented rooms, and there is one that I could easily never leave. We’ll end our tour there. Let us start in the Sun Room…..

S&B AmberRose

‘Amber Rose’ has been the biggest surprise for me. If you’ve heard me talk about rose you’ll know that I am beyond fussy when it comes to the queen of the flowers. I am a self confessed snob and extremely hard to please. One of my least favourites are sweet roses because although I greatly enjoy eating the sugared petals in various forms, I cannot quite cope with that scent on my skin. ‘Amber Rose’ lists May Rose from Grasse and White Amber among it’s notes, as well as a very intriguing Dulce de Leche facet that really caught my attention. I adore Dulce de Leche. On toast, in crepes, straight off the spoon, it’s butterscotch goodness never fails to pleasure me. But I don’t like sweet roses and Dulche de Leche is so sweet…..I could procrastinate forever, so I thought I should just get on and try it.

‘Amber Rose’ is like opening the door into a room painted palest faun and white. The vast windows are open and behind sheer, drifting lace the sun is setting, filtering through the delicate curtains in a blaze of radiance. On every surface stands vase upon vase of roses, pink, peach, white and apricot, creamy petals fluttering to the polished wooden floor in the summers breeze. The occasional table between the silk brocade sofas is set with a delectable feast of soft white bread, rose lemonade and a huge jar of butterscotch sauce, the spoon all ready for scooping. The air inside the room is warm from the sun’s rays and fresh from the breeze, the blooms all around are sublimely fragrant. All you have to do it settle into the cushions and enjoy your delicious supper….

The beginning few seconds of ‘Amber Rose’ is about dewy soft petals, unfurling at high speed in the growing sunlight. It feels soft and sheer but the rose isn’t ghostly, rather it has a lovely luminosity that renders the pale petals whole. When the Dulce de Leche appears it immediately takes centre stage, growing in intensity and golden butteriness with every second. Five minutes in and ‘Amber Rose’ is all about butterscotch. My mouth is watering, it is a realistic portrait which avoids nasty synthetic sweetness. For a while I wonder if the rose will ever return but after about ten minutes she drifts back in. There is what I feel to be a necessary distance between the massive dose of golden butterscotch and the delicate pink of the rose, they hold themselves very separate from each other and from this point take it in turns to be more prevalent. This is undoubtably a very sweet, gourmand rose fragrance of the sort that I don’t usually like. However, I really like ‘Amber Rose’ for a number of reasons.

Firstly, that Dulce de Leche is difficult not to love. There is such an accuracy to this accord that it never develops an uncomfortable level of sweetness. It is exactly as it is straight from the jar. Secondly, the rose and butterscotch are the only two notes that I really notice, everything else seems simply to support the main players. I enjoy this because for me, gourmand roses are usually spoiled by the appearance of some very inedible note somewhere in the development. It is akin to enjoying a glass of milk then noticing that you can still taste the washing up liquid. In ‘Amber Rose’ all the notes are scrumptiously mouthwatering, deliciously scented, rounded and smooth. There are no sour moments. Thirdly, I find no powdery lipstick quality here, this is not a vintage rose. It is a very intelligently produced sweet, dewy rose with all the sophistication of a classic, but none of the showiness. I think I actually might wear this and that is saying something!

‘Amber Rose’ has a moderate projection and stayed on my skin for about six hours. I tend to apply cautiously though, so I should imagine a few more spritzes would last far longer. But if you are looking for a perfume with some serious tenacity then you’d better follow me upstairs to the Boudoir….

S&B Atropa

Atropa Belladonna’ has been another extremely enjoyable experience. A richly decadent and voluptuous interpretation of berries, white blooms and vanilla that has a narcotic, hedonistic feel in it’s opening moments. Cassis, Grasse Jasmine, White Narsissus, Bourbon Vanilla and Patchouli make for quite a heady concoction.

The door of the Boudoir is made of teak, intricately engraved with garlands of flowers and swags of ripe fruit. It opens with barely a whisper as you step into the velvet darkness within. The carpet is so plush that your feet sink luxuriously into the indigo fibres, not a chink of moonlight is allowed to escape from behind curtains that would not look out of place hung in a proscenium arch. They pool in endless shadowed folds upon the floor. Candles burn intensely in the gloom, the plum coloured wax bubbling and dripping into ornate holders. The flames themselves seem to burn with a bluish hue. A subtle sparkling outlines a figure seated within the depths of the room, the flames reflect from the rubies clinging to her throat. You bring the candle closer and in it’s flickering light you catch the impression of dark tumbling hair, bare shoulders and acres of damson velvet skirts. The woman’s eyes glimmer with a sultry menace, the pupils fully dilated in a face with lips like a stain of berry juices. Whatever she wants with you, it is both terrifying and thrilling….

The opening of ‘Atropa Belladonna’ is very visual, dark juices bursting upon the skin with characteristic sweet tartness. The cassis is so dark it is almost black and dense in texture. The jasmine appears next, swirling through the deep plum and indigo. The effect is one of opening petals in the night, pollen escaping to drift on the breeze.

The perfume blossoms forth in waves, filling out and taking form. I detect a very distinct pollen note which I believe comes from the narsissus and this is what takes ‘Atropa Belladonna’ from dessert into a narcotic fuelled night of decadence and hedonism. The slightly nose tickling narsissus, the head spinning indolic quality of the jasmine, paired with the sweet/tart cassis and a developing rich vanilla is really trippy. There is also a sense of something slightly herbal in the base, the idea of incense burning without the actual scent of it. I believe this to be a very clever use of patchouli and sandalwood, supporting the slick and sweet vanilla/cassis combination and helping it to last.

The cassis note has impressive longevity and carries through the whole development of the fragrance, along with the incredibly rich and almost burnt vanilla. The trippy pollen-like narcissus subsides to allow the jasmine to fully breathe her night time secrets into the dark. Patchouli stays submerged below the surface, supporting the other notes until the final dry down, where it becomes more prominent and develops a jam like quality, next to a drier sandalwood and berry custard dessert of cassis and vanilla.

‘Atropa Belladonna’ is almost obscene in it’s sweetness at times, but it comes purely from a clever blend of cassis and vanilla and never stumbles over into artificial sugarplums. The patchouli is no where near as prevalent as it is in other gourmand patchouli fragrances like Mugler ‘Angel’ and the berry juices far more sophisticated than ‘Nina’ by Nina Ricci. There are comparisons certainly and if you love either of those fragrances then I’m sure you would adore ‘Atropa Belladonna’. I feel that it deserves special recognition for that incredible narcotic quality in it’s opening moments, so fitting considering the effects of Deadly Nightshade, from which it’s name derives. After the unspoken debauchery of the night, it’s time to freshen up. Come done into the Garden Room when you’re ready….

S&B Almond

The third scent that I chose to sample from Shay and Blue is ‘Almond Cucumber’ and it is the one that I have fallen head over heels for. For me it is the epitome of understatement, something that I am forever searching for in perfume. With a nod to the 90’s, the era in which I was discovering scent, ‘Almond Cucumber’ was bound to woo my nostalgic sensibilities. It’s no watery blue pool though, there is light and space in this perfume that draws it firmly into the now.

Stepping through the glass doors of the garden room, the sensation is one of wonderful coolness. The walls are white, the rattan furniture bleached by the weather and the tiled floor carries a faded pattern of sage coloured flowers. Beyond the glass the garden spreads out in seemingly endless greenness, drooping willow against shiny rhododendron, rolling lawns disappearing beneath shaded boughs. This is where you come to think, to work, to refresh a tired soul. Pulling a chair up to the french doors, you sit between the flowing white linen curtains and slowly pick through a bowl of melon and cucumber, breathing in the bright air of the garden and letting your thoughts wander. The afternoon passes in dappled light and shade until finally the sun can be seen dipping below the horizon, a perfect golden orb framed with bluish cloud. Stretching, you set aside your notebook and wander out into the evening mists, dew already forming on the grass. It is deliciously cool beneath your bare feet….

‘Almond Cucumber’ is simplicity itself, a superb combination of cool and milky notes with incredible longevity. Cucumber, Winter Mimosa, Almond milk and Almond wood are the notes listed. The scent opens like freshly peeled and sliced cucumber, crushed onto a white china dish. Chasing behind comes a luscious green melon, ever so slightly sweetened but always chilled and mouthwatering. There is a nostalgic hint of a facial toner I used to use as a teenager but the effect is not astringent or alcoholic, it feels pure and succulent.

The almond, when it appears after about five minutes, is what truly makes this perfume a winner for me and sets it apart from the watery, melony musks of the past. It is freshest almond milk, white and smooth and nutty, cold from the fridge. It seems to blend seamlessly with the pale green cucumber, blitzing the slippery flesh and turning it creamy, almost frothy. There is no soap, no washing powder, just a very realistic white and green fluidity. Occasionally a little sweetness rises in the development, reminiscent of macaroons but this always subsides again under the steady misting of milk and light.

‘Almond Cucumber’ feels spacious, luminous and airy. The balance between nutty and cool is ever perfect and a certain dewy moistness presides. However, the fragrance never feels drenched and watery to me. There is also a very pretty floral quality that lends a dainty texture. Subtle in the extreme but then, that’s what I love the most.

For all it’s dainty politeness, this perfume has lasting power beyond my wildest dreams. I think that the notes really suit my skin and that helps. I wouldn’t call it a perfume of great sillage, it doesn’t project greatly but it lasts and lasts from early morning into the evening. In the closing stages it feels comforting and still so creamy, warmer now with woody shavings. ‘Almond Cucumber’ is the ultimate in cool, reserved and seamless simplicity. I adore it.

A wonderful and surprising bonus comes written on the price tag. At £30 for 30mls and £55 for 100mls, these perfumes are affordable. I honestly couldn’t believe the price. I normally just assume  that the price of the fragrances I review will be close to £100 at least and I had to double check the website to be sure. There is obvious craftsmanship and high quality ingredients at work here, the structure may not be overly complex but the resulting perfumes are all worthy of praise.

Shay and blue have delivered on all fronts. The brand looks stunning and the fragrances have been a joy to write about. ‘Almond Cucumber’ will be arriving, beautifully packaged, as a full bottle on my dresser in the near future. I still have three more scents to try, the vivacious sounding ‘Blood Oranges’, the zest infused ‘Sicilian Limes’ and the very intriguing ‘Suffolk Lavender’. I’m greatly looking forward to exploring more scented rooms within the house of Shay and Blue, I hope that you will seek out these bright spaces for yourselves too.

Let’s talk about Rose

aphrodite-adonis

The Queen of blooms, an ancient representative of love and beauty. In Greek mythology, the sea foam falling from Aphrodite’s body as she is born from the waves turns to white roses, a sign of her innocence and purity. When she must heal her wounded lover Adonis, she sheds her blood onto a white rose, turning it’s petals crimson with her passion and desire. After the wedding of Eros and Psyche, Zeus instructs his children the Hours and the Graces to set everything aglow with roses, spreading the blooms throughout the whole of Ancient Greece and carrying all the power of the gods.

Flower_Nymph

Of the thousands of myths surrounding the rose, the story I find particularly beautiful is about the Roman goddess Flora, queen of the spring and protector of flowers. When one of her beloved Nymphs dies, she begs the other gods to help turn her into a beautiful flower. Apollo gives her life, Bacchus bestows nectar, Pomona gives her fruit, Vertumnus creates for her a beautiful perfume and Flora crowns her with petals. The rose becomes the united effort of multiple gods, making it the most magically powerful bloom of all.

vintage roses

Personally I have lots of memories surrounding roses. I’ve spoken about it before but my grandmother used to wear a rose scent, I don’t know what it was but that particular perfume is trapped forever inside a still frame of her dressing table, jewellery boxes overflowing with pearls and paste gems, golden cased lipsticks and my granddads old war medals.

rose blue sky

In the city where my grandmother lived there was a garden on the seafront filled with roses. During late summer we would go and wander through the rows of carefully tended bushes, surrounded by high walls to protect the delicate blooms from the sea breezes. It’s the colours that I remember here. White, yellow, peach, pink and red, all glowing against a backdrop of azure sky. I can also remember an intense urge to pick the flowers from the earth and gather them into a huge bunch to take home. I was severely scolded for trying.

photo-3

Another memory from my childhood is of the Cotswold Perfumery, in Bourton-on-the-Water close to where I grew up. It’s a beautiful place, limestone cottages with a wide stream running through the centre of the village. The perfumery makes very classic fragrances, as well as running courses in perfume making. As a child I was mesmerised by the shop, all the twinkling glass bottles and the wonderful smelling perfumes within. For a couple of pounds you could buy samples of the perfume, except instead of packaging them in the traditional test vials they were artfully encased in perfect, minuscule bottles, complete with a tiny label and a lovely box patterned like watered silk. I’m sure you can imagine that for a little girl in love with perfume and also firmly insistent that fairies were real, owning a bottle like this was about as wonderful as you could get. I had a rose perfume, I think it was called ‘Rosa’. I used to put a tiny dab on before I went to bed in the hope that the flower fairies would visit me during the night. We went for a lovely walk around Bourton on Boxing Day and although the perfumery was closed for the holidays, peering through the window was enough to bring the smell of that perfume back into my nose.

IMG_0633

A more recent memory, one that still makes me feel tingly with happiness, are the roses that grew around the door of the house we lived in (pictured above) when our daughter was born. It was November and having been in hospital for nearly two weeks, I came home to find a single pale yellow rose blooming just at head height, perfect in every way. The scent of that rose was so delicate and fresh after so many days inside stuffy hospital rooms that it felt like a gift from nature. I don’t know the variety of rose it was, it had a soft citrus character that I found extraordinarily beautiful. I have yet to find that exquisite delicacy in a perfume and I wonder if I ever will, sometimes things are only beautiful when they are growing in nature.

The only time I’ve actually chosen a rose fragrance for myself was in my early twenties. I was a teenager in the nineties when scent was all about clean, watery and unisex. I spent much of my teenage years covered in ‘Tommy Girl’, Davidoff ‘Cool Water’, Issy Miyake ‘L’eau d’Issey’ and ‘CK One’. I also had some Elizabeth Arden ‘Sunflowers’ and Clinique ‘Happy’. You can see a theme developing there. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began to tire of the citrus- water- white musk triangle and go in search of true florals and more gourmand fragrances. The first perfume I bought that broke my previous perfume rules was ‘Stella’ from Stella McCartney. I really don’t like this perfume anymore but it seemed so chic and classy at the time, a very feminine floral like a sheer tumble of pink and purple petals. It’s the only rose perfume I’ve owned since my tiny bottle of ‘Rosa’. I cannot seem to find the right fit somehow and it’s not through a lack of trying. I am incredibly fussy when it comes to this particular note in perfume, even more so than my beloved orange, to the point where I’ve pretty much dismissed everything I’ve come across so far. I believe my expectations to be rather too high.

turkish

I have a bottle of expensive Turkish rose essential oil that I use very sparingly in my bath water. I’ve tried it directly on my skin and incredibly as it warms it turns woodier and drier until the moist petal quality that I love completely disappears. I smell like pot pourri after an hour which is not what I was aiming for.

I’ve been on this rose quest for a while now. I’ve worked my way through quite a few of the best known scents that sounded appealing to me and so far I have not found what I’m looking for. Admittedly I have probably only scratched the surface and I’m sure people would have hundreds of recommendations. I believe that for me, the vision of a rose that I hold in my head doesn’t ever quite fit the perfumes I have thus far tried.

turkish delight

I also feel a clear divide between rose as perfume and rose as confection. I adore Turkish delight and rose scented cream chocolates and there is always a bottle of rose water in my kitchen cupboard. ‘Une Rose Vermeille’ from Andy Tauer is a light, frothy, rose, lemon, vanilla and raspberry delight that I would feel proud to place on the table in a cut glass dish but somehow cannot quite handle when it’s on my skin. I have some odd prejudices when it comes to gourmand perfumes. Only certain ‘foody’ notes seem acceptable for me to wear on my skin and unfortunately sweet rose is not one of them. So you can imagine that rules out a fair few fragrances.

Frederick Malle ‘Lipstick Rose’ is far too powerful for my rather delicate sensitivities. My skin turns it completely to powder, to the point where I actually feel as if I am inhaling the fine dust from a lady’s glided compact. For all the love out there for this perfume I just cannot make it work for me. The same is true for ‘Une Rose’, a perfume I was sure I would adore as it draws the lightness of rose into the shadows with an earthy truffle note. Although I found wearing this perfume an interesting experience, the earthiness was not somehow dark enough for me, the truffle note turning musty and smudged on my skin, dirtying the rose petals with road dust rather than the loamy earth that I was hoping for. Again, I know I am in a minority here, ‘Une Rose’ is much praised. It is simply not what I’m looking for.

‘Imogen Rose’ from Gorilla Perfume is a lovely, very simple rose and vanilla scent that, when worn in very small doses, is pleasant and reminiscent of baby soft skin. However as with all Gorilla scents it is easy to overdose and the result is an almost visible cloud of pink that is dry and too sweet for me. Lush also make a shower gel called ‘Rose Jam’ that I adore, maybe because, like the bath oil, I leave the majority of the scent behind me in the bathroom, only a whisper stays on my skin. Lush turned ‘Rose Jam’ into a limited edition perfume that my friend The Silver Fox loves, but he mentions a ‘hot plastic’ quality that I just know I won’t like. Are you beginning to understand how fussy I am about rose perfume now?

The closest I get to really enjoying a rose perfume is when I wear Serge Lutens ‘Sa Majeste la Rose’. It’s not quite right but it’s nearly there. ‘Sa Majeste’ has a lovely, dewy opening like delicate pink petals collecting water droplets. It becomes more honeyed and dry, with a very subtle woodiness that gives the green and pink some depth. It is rather sweet but not in a jammy way, there are very gentle wafts of clove that don’t encroach on the soft rose centre. ‘Sa Majeste la Rose’ is extremely pretty, beautifully made and in many respects is a perfect rose fragrance. Alas I find it a little too airy and a little on the sweet side for my ridiculously critical tastes.

dark rose                

I think I want a rose with a dark heart. A rose that exposes her delicate skin in leather fetish wear. But I don’t want a cheapened rose, one who will give up all her secrets willingly. If I could find something that balances the purity and freshness of perfectly furled petals with a deeper, more lush undertone of decadence and debauchery then I would be overjoyed. A rose perfume that isn’t too sweet, isn’t too dry, isn’t too powdery yet isn’t too light. A rose that carries all the power of the ancient gods. A perfume with petals as a costume but perhaps a harder, darker secret hidden within. That’s not asking for too much is it?

There are rumours that Vero Kern’s next perfume is focused around roses. If she can’t make rose into something beautifully twisted then I don’t know who can. While we all wait with baited breath for that launch, any suggestions for rose perfumes that you think I might like would be greatly appreciated…. I’ll try not to be too hard to please…..

‘The Scent of Winter’ A guest essay for Scentury

Back in the summer I discovered Scentury, a beautiful website dedicated to capturing our emotional and instinctual reactions to perfume. Founded by designer Helder Suffenplan, the site features fascinating interviews with up and coming designers, artists and musicians. The aim is for them to discuss fragrance like a story, a memory,  doing away with all the jargon that, if you don’t understand it, can make talking about perfume very difficult.

It is a brilliant concept. Fresh, exciting and just what the perfume world needs. The website is beautifully designed, the photography excellent. I have read every interview with great interest so you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to contribute the first essay for the new ‘We Say’ section. It is a few musings on the scent of winter.

Im chuffed to bits to be a part of this. Click on the link above the picture and come and have a browse!

To read my essay for scentury.com click here!

scentury

‘Hedonist’ by Viktoria Minya

hedonist

I have been lusting after this perfume for quite a while. Everything about it seemed to indicate that I would fall head over heels. Golden, glowing peaches and woods? Yes please! A bottle filled with delicate amber beads? Stunning! The scent of hedonism? Well why not? It has got to that time of the year when I just want to indulge all my senses with wild abandon. I’ll repent in the new year.

‘Hedonist’ is the first signature fragrance from Viktoria Minya, a Hungarian born, award winning perfumer with classical french training. ‘Hedonist’ has received high acclaim since it’s launch earlier in 2013 and the perfumer herself much praised and admired for her talent, dedication and beauty.

Viktoria

The Viktoria Minya website describes ‘Hedonist’ thus:

 “A powerful and provocative perfume for a woman who dares to be true to her desires. Lush notes of jasmine and orange blossom absolute flirt with the dark intensity of rum and the world’s finest woods for a scent that is as captivating as it is unforgettable.”

With a name like ‘Hedonist’, this perfume promises to lavish my senses with all things pleasurable, to transport me into a land of delight, to do away with the mundane and gild everything in golden sensuality. I have great expectations of intoxicating, mind spinning moments, of turning every head as I sashay down velvet carpeted halls…..

Ok so maybe I got a little carried away. I found ‘Hedonist’ extremely pleasurable, in fact I’m totally in love with it but not because it is the perfume equivalent of ultimate gratification. For me it is far too restrained and flawless to be classed as hedonistic. On my skin ‘Hedonist’ is a whisper of plushest velvet peach skin, warm honey and golden tobacco leaves with dark rum and bright amber citrus. I find myself sinking into the enveloping embrace of this perfume in an almost peaceful way. It has the hushed anticipation of the theatre before a performance rather than the rush and swoop of a heartbeat aroused. It is decadent, it is golden, in a sophisticated, classical way. It has depth, brightness, sweetness and smokiness, stitched carefully into tailored perfection. I found no wild abandon here. ‘Hedonist’ is sexy in a very soft way. Slightly flushed skin, dusted with rouge, breath sweetened with herbs. It has a glowing intensity that does not slip into a pervasive glare, warmth in the most comforting, baked peach and honey dream. It is a sublime experience while it lasts.

Usually a perfume with citrus top notes bursts upon the skin right away. ‘Hedonist’ has the sensation of honey and fruit juices drizzled onto my wrist. There is the bright sparkle of orange which is immediately sweetened and warmed by the most delicious nectar of honey and rum. That wonderful baked peach accord blooms like a sunlit smile and feels very classical yet also light and breezy. The woods beneath are smoothly polished with beeswax and a suede cloth. All is seamless and golden.

As the perfume warms into my skin it becomes more full and I notice a beautiful tobacco note. Not burning tobacco but flaked amber leaves, damp between the fingertips. The dark rum becomes more prominent amidst the dripping peach and orange and honey, deepening the colours into autumnal tones. It is comforting as the softest eiderdown and I feel soothed by these sweet depths.

‘Hedonist’ is not a radical shapeshifter, it steadily breathes it’s golden light forth, losing only the initial feeling of drenched juices. The orange subsides ever so slightly and a more floral orange blossom and soft jasmine blend themselves smoothly, so smoothly that I barely notice their arrival. That amazing tobacco is ever present, mingling with the honeyed peaches to make this a perfume of incredible balance and intricacy. Rum and woods could so easily have dominated the main development but here they remain controlled below the top fruity layer, smoothing, supporting and cushioning the lighter shades.

Towards the end of this perfume’s life a dryness develops. It is a fine cashmere shawl draped across shoulders warmed by evening sunlight. The tobacco begins to smoulder and the smooth woods absorb the golden nectar. Little white flowers crown it all. It is heartbreakingly lovely and over far too soon.

This is the only sadness that I felt whilst sampling ‘Hedonist’. It does not last longer than three hours on my skin. I wondered at first whether I was being stingy with my sample. It was a surprise gift from my dear Silver Fox and I wanted to make it last! The third time I tested it I practically doused myself with it, (by my standards, about a third of the vial) hoping for a more lasting pleasure. Alas, after three hours there was nothing left but a faint woody sweetness. I am not someone who likes to radiate scent like a force field, but ‘Hedonist’ is so lovely that I would have been quite happy for others to catch a drift of it’s golden goodness as I passed by. Other reviews I have read do not seem to mention a problem with longevity, so maybe I have been too careful with my application. But there is just enough in the tiny vial for a few more glorious hours and I am not about to waste it!

To conclude, ‘Hedonist’ is a truly lovely, deeply comforting and highly crafted perfume that deserves all the compliments that have thus far been lavished upon it. The fact that wearing it brought me so much pleasure makes it deserving of it’s name in many respects, but those looking for dizzying heights of gratification may find it a little too warm and gentle to satisfy those deeper urges. I would dearly love to own a beautiful bottle of ‘Hedonist’, but knowing that beauty is fleeting makes me concerned about how quickly I would fritter away it’s golden nectar. Perhaps I will ask Father Christmas for a bottle to keep for special occasions….

4160 Tuesdays ‘Urara’s Tokyo Cafe’

UTC

There is something special about Sarah McCartney’s perfumes. I have been living with two of them for the last couple of weeks and both have enchanted my nose and cradled my senses in their spellbinding embrace. ‘Sunshine and Pancakes’ was, and continues to be true love, with it’s simplicity shining from my skin like the glow of pure happiness. ‘Urara’s Tokyo Cafe’ has taken a little longer to find it’s voice but I feel that it becomes all the more powerful for being mysterious…. But more on that later.

The question that burns at the heart of this new love affair that I have going on with 4160 Tuesdays is this: Is Ms. McCartney a genius, or is she just blessed with a natural flair and lots of luck? You see, when I think of the process involved for making fragrance, I have this idea of a poised and immaculate perfumer in a white shirt, sitting at their organ, drawing from a huge catalogue of knowledge as they painstakingly mix and blend and calculate. It seems so clinical and controlled, all the passion of the perfume contained within the glass beaker, to release it’s emotion only when it touches skin. When I think of Sarah McCartney I imagine a lady wearing excellent glasses and stripy tights, chucking stuff into a big mixing bowl and having a cup of tea at the same time. The resulting perfume one would assume to be of a lesser quality to that produced by the perfumer in white. That is simply not the case. Somehow, in her spontaneous, seemingly haphazard way, Sarah McCartney has created fragrance with as much beauty, structure and credibility as any classically trained perfumer.

Sarah

The stories behind the perfumes explain a lot about Sarah’s work ethic. They all started as gifts for friends, as bespoke scent made to measure for a particular person, as perfume to be worn by the characters in a book. Her perfumes are personal, they have not been made for a wide audience, although they certainly seem to appeal to an awful lot of people. They have a wonderful homespun quality that only adds to their attractiveness. The idea that she might be able to sell her fragrance still seems to be rather an afterthought for Sarah McCartney, this being one of a dozen different projects she has on the go right now. It is hard to know whether it is this spontaneity and freedom that allows the fragrances their unadulterated appeal, or whether Sarah is one of those mad workaholics who does an amazing job of making everything look effortless. 4160 Tuesdays has the organic feel of a brand built purely on instinct and a lot of luck, but Sarah McCartney has the look of a warrior, albeit wrapped in multiple, brightly coloured layers. Which ever it may be, I like the outcome very much.

So to the fragrance in question. From what I can garner, Urara was the owner of a cafe in Tokyo where Sarah McCartney hosted an event. Literally translated Urara means ‘breeze in the cherry blossoms’. If that’s not inspirational for a fragrance then I don’t know what is! The perfume contains  notes of Rose, Violet, Geranium, Raspberry Leaf and Tangerine, with a resinous base of Opoponax and Tolu Balsam. One look at the note listing and I was rather excited. I also (although I generally make it a rule not to) read a very lovely review of the perfume from The Scent Critic which is quoted on the 4160 Tuesdays website, which describes the fragrance thus:

 “It’s probably the ‘easiest’ of her scents to wear:  a gorgeous fuzzy marshmallow of a perfume, baby-powder pretty but with a touch of green grass.  And then when you’ve had it on for a while, quite a while, it gets quite sexy.  But it’s probably the hardest of the 4160 Tuesdays fragrances to review:  so seamless it’s virtually impossible to identify any one note.  To me, it is essence-of-spring blossom.  Imagine lying under a cherry tree in a dream, while petals gently float down and shroud you in their floral sweetness, as if on time-lapse.  It smells like all the edges have been lovingly buffed off this perfume, till it’s smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom.  (Only a lot more deliciously-scented.)  It is also quite seriously, seriously addictive.”

I definitely agree with the seriously addictive part. However, such is the wonder of personal skin chemistry that in other respects I feel as if I’m wearing a different perfume to the one described (beautifully) above. My initial reactions were similar but very quickly all turns shaded and mysterious….

‘Urara’s Tokyo Cafe’ opens with lovely fresh rose, petals unfurling in the daintiest of pinks. Atop this  sparkles grapefruit and tangerine, the feeling is very bright and airy. Almost as soon as those petals have opened a slightly more aromatic accord appears, herby and green. The perfume is now dappled with shade between the rose bushes.

From beneath, the resinous warmth of sweet Myrrh stains the green and pink with umber tones. I usually find Myrrh way too prevalent in perfume, my skin makes it cloyingly sweet and churchy. Here it gives the wonderful impression of a great splash of strong green tea, saturating the base of the scent with an almost tannin-like tang. It’s such a pleasant experience to smell the resin balanced by the green goodness of geranium and rose. It has all the atmospheric depth that incense can bring to a fragrance, without any of the smokiness. It took me a good few tests to identify it for what it was and I was so pleasantly surprised.

‘Urara’s Tokyo Cafe’ stays brooding darkly on my skin, like forest mosses. For the longest time it doesn’t change, seeping colours across my wrists, olive green, deep umber with tiny pink blossoms opening like stars here and there. For all it’s depth it stays translucent, like gouache, projecting with amazing vibrancy.

Only after about an hour does the perfume start to shift, warming and sweetening. The sweetness is fruity from the raspberry leaf and warm from the resin and slightly powdered from the violet. I try to enjoy violet in perfume but I often find it rather challenging when done ‘artistically’ and stifling when done ‘classically’. Here it is just a pleasant dusting over the richness of the main body. Very subtly done. ‘Urara’s Tokyo Cafe’ is still brooding and shaded, but now it seems also to glow with warmth. A very enigmatic effect that leaves me with my noise glued to my wrist, trying to breathe it all in before it fades….which it doesn’t, for about ten hours.

There is some seriously clever perfumery at work behind this fragrance. If I hadn’t been testing it over and over to pick out different notes I could have just let it flow over me in one continuous drift of shadow and light. It is at the very end that I can imagine lying under the aforementioned cherry blossom branches, as the notes all blend together and sing me softly to sleep. It has wonderful balance, clarity and structure, it flows beautifully from the skin, last for hours and is undeniably alluring. There is only one tiny hole I would pick in this perfume and that is a very slight laundryesque, musky note at the very end that seems out of place and a bit artificial. It may just be my skin.

So, Sarah McCartney. Talented self taught perfumer or just lucky with the pipettes……..? Without a shadow of a doubt she is getting it very right, whatever she’s doing. I suspect a big splash of magic goes into each bottle she produces and the result is right here on my skin. I sincerely hope that she continues to build 4160 Tuesdays into a brand that gains as much recognition as it deserves and long may her intuitive and very individual approach to perfumery continue.