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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rochas Madame Rochas: fragrance review

"Give him Madame Rochas. A few drops at a time."
 ~New Yorker magazine vintage ad 27 November 1965


Madame Rochas was the signature scent of my grandmother in her mature years and lovingly picked by my own mother as well, when my grandmother passed away. They were unconsciously true to the wise words of a vintage ad: "Rule: Your perfume should change as often as your mood. Exception: Madame Rochas." It does make for a glorious signature fragrance...I well remember smelling the perfume on both women as a little girl, thinking it smelled simply wonderful. And it still does, transporting me to an elegant vision of old money class, beautiful restraint, no vulgar displays of anything, be it flesh or wealth. But that's not to say she's not sexy or femme either. Another vintage ad puts it well: "In France romance is a national passion. So is Madame Rochas". And it is indeed very much a "perfume in the French style".
Like classical art, this Guy Robert scented creation always felt like it was simply striking the right proportions.

Character & Attitude: A Grande Dame
To describe Madame Rochas feels a bit like ornamenting that which needs no ornament. Much like my maternal grandmother, she is a Grande Dame, never an ingenue, girl-next-door, damsel in distress or soubrette. This might be the reason this 1960 creation fell somewhat out of favor commercially in the last 15-20 years when perfumery reached its apogee of fragrance creation ideals focused on naive youthfulness, immediate accessibility or plain out weirdness for the sensationalist/witty effect. Much like on cannot imagine the generation of CK One approaching their elders' vanities with anything but a dismissed "pffft", one cannot envision Madame Rochas on anyone under 30. Unless of course we're talking a perfumista who dabbles in decades past.

On the contrary Madame Rochas is in a way Lanvin's Arpège revisited for the 1960s and the new jet set emerging, a sort of Parisian Mod, Jackie Kennedy shops French designers before becoming First Lady. Madame Rochas is also interesting as a milestone in perfumer's Guy Robert opus in that it set the stage for his Hermes Calèche to follow the following year, Madame Rochas' drier twin sister; the latter would would influence the market for quite awhile.

The fragrance was created specifically under the commision of Hélène Rochas, the young wife of the Rochas house founder, for whom Femme de Rochas was also made when she went into wedlock. She was only 30 when the perfume was officially issued, showing just how far and wide tastes in what is considered youthful have shifted.

Scent Description
The aldehydes open on a dewy but sunny April morning: Hyacinth, lemon and neroli are shining with green-waxy-lemony shades before an indeterminate floral heart opens with woody tonalities (tuberose, rose, narcissus and jasmine). The propelling provided by the muskier, mossier, lightly powdered (never talc-like) base extends the florals and woods on for hours. The complexity of the formula and the intricate structuring of its accords accounts for its radiance and tenacity.
The powdery orris feel is underscored by the fresh and at the same time musty vetiver; but the proportion is such that the end result doesn't smell musty at all.

This bright, vivacious, graceful bouquet gains subtly soapy nuances of corpulent lily of the valley with only a slight hint of floral sweetness; its delicious bitterness, almost chypré, lurking beneath the green flowers is its hallmark of elegance. Inedible, smelling like proper perfume with a surprising warmth, ambery-like, like honeycomb smelled at a distance, Madame Rochas is an aldehydic floral perfume in the grand manner and thanks to its perfect harmony, lack of uprightness and full on humanity it is among the most legible in this demanding genre as well, not to mention romantic and sensuous too.
If you thought you couldn't "do" aldehydic fragrances because you can't succumb to the most famous example Chanel No.5, maybe Madame Rochas will do the trick. It sums up good taste.


Notes for Madame Rochas:
Top: aldehydes, bergamot, lemon and neroli
Middle: jasmine, rose, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, orris root, ylang-ylang, violet and narcissus
Base: sandalwood, vetiver, musk, cedar, oakmoss and tonka bean.

Fragrance Editions: Vintage vs. Modern & Bottle Design
The original Madame Rochas was introduced in 1960 and was re-issued 1982 in its second edition, re-orchestrated by Jean Luis Sieuzac. The original bottle design represents a replica of a 18th century bottle which was in the collection of Helene Rochas herself. The box is printed like a tapestry.
The new edition design was adapted by Pierre Dinand and is available in 30, 50 and 100 ml of eau de toilette.  The box is white with gold lettering.
The new version of Madame Rochas is somewhat lighter than I recall and less spicy- powdery, emphasizing green floral notes on the expense of balmy, woody ones. But it's still classy and collected at all times and a bargain to get.

Who is it for?
I would recommend this for all Calèche, Climat de Lancome, YSL Y, Guerlain Chamade and even Dioressence lovers. Climat is much more powdery and immediately aldehydic, Y is more chypre and Chamade relies more on hyacinths. Dioressence starts with sweeter notes in the openening and is much more animalic-smelling in the deeper notes, especially in the vintage orientalised verion. Madame Rochas could also be a great fit if you like things like Rive Gauche by YSL, Paco Rabanne Calandre, Revillon Detchema or Tauer's Tableau de Parfums Miriam.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Guy Robert: Loving Tribute to a Legendary Perfumer

The creator of masterpieces Madame Rochas, Amouage Gold & Gold for Men, Dioressence, Calèche and the original 1955 Doblis by Hermès  is no more: Perfumer Guy Robert died on Monday 28th May. His mantra: Un parfum doit avant tout sent bon (a perfume should first and foremost smell good).
 One small anecdote (and some perfume quotes I will address below) shows us how historical memory is fleeting when it comes to perfumes and perfumers' work. Despite Robert's amazing and historically important work, not everything is recorded and much of what passed behind closed doors has escaped the written word. Like Robert's unknown perfume called Chouda...


Guy Leyssène, who met Madame Grès at a dinner part two years prior to Cabochard's launch, suggested that she should issue a perfume because it was a profitable enterprise which all the other fashion designers of the times had embarked on. The perfume that was in works was a composition by legendary perfumer Guy Robert, called Chouda. Then young Robert ~under the guidance of mentor Andrée Castanié, then editor of L'Officiel de la Mode et de la Couture~ had been introduced to Mme Grès in 1956. But it took a trip to India, the land of exoticism, which prompted Alix Grès to further her plans on the house’s fragrance. The visit had begun innocuously, invited by the Ford Foundation to assess Indian brocades. It was there that Alix Grès discovered water hyacinth: a flower she became enraptured with. It has a sweet odour, rich like tuberose, yet with a fresher top and slightly warmer. The experimentation of Guy Robert yeilded rich fruits: Alix loved it, however Chouda was almost exclusively used by her (only five litres of Chouda were ever made) as it was too flowery for the tastes of the 50s which veered towards classic chypres. She launched another fragrance under the pressure of public input: the mod of what was to become Cabochard, made by Bernand Chant of IFF, was received much more favourably and thus the plan to push Chouda was ultimately abandoned, although the two were issued almost simultaneously in 1959. It comes as a surprise that there were focus groups even back then, but it is a fact that puts things into perspective: public reception is (and will always be) the moniker of how things work in a sector that, although hinges on art, is also largely a business.

According to Luca Turin, as quoted by Chandler Burr:  "I got to know Guy Robert particularly well. He's a professional-level jazz pianist, writes fiction, is a terrific cook. You should hear him talking about olive oil. He knows the only place to get it. He took me to one of the best restaurants I've ever been to, Le Bistro le Paradou, west of Aix. He's in his seventies now. He's been in the business a long time, has bad relations with Jean Amic, the old head of Givaudan. It's a small world, Grasse. Everyone's screwed everyone else at some point, literally and figuratively."

Guy Robert's wit and realism were unparalleled. He said of Piguet's Bandit scent: "A beautiful, but brutal perfume." And on Ernest Daltroff of Caron, lamenting current state of affairs in perfumery: "Today, when copycats make money, and perfumers are discouraged by lawyers and toxicologists from using some of nature's most fascinating products, Daltroff's creations are a reminder of what true perfumery is all about. He devoted his unique taste and sense of balance to a quest for fragrance perfection." [quotes via Michael Edwards, Perfume Legends]
And on composing: “We are like painters: some use simple colors, others prefer sophisticated ones. It's the result that matters” [quote Guy Robert, Les Sens du Parfum]


Guy Robert belongs to a clan of perfumers as is typical with classic French noses; nephew of Henri Robert, the second perfumer after Beaux at Chanel and famously the nose behind Coty's Muguet de Bois, Chanel pour Monsieur, Chanel No. 19 and Cristalle, while Guy's own son is François Robert who worked on Lanvin Vetyver and the newer Les Parfums de Rosine scents. Between 1949 and his death he worked for six different fragrance houses (Hermès, Rochas, Dior, Gucci, Amouage and The Pink Room), learning perfumery, creating perfume and then supervising groups of perfumers.

In 1961, at the prompting of Jean-René Guerrand (son-in-law of Émile Hermès and founder of the fragrances branch), the perfumer Guy Robert composed Calèche, a masterpiece which instantly transformed Hermès into one of the major players of modern perfumery. Nine years later, moreover, he would be the author of Équipage, the House's first fragrance for men and arguably one of the most graceful to this day. But in the decades of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s he also composed numerous perfumers' bases and accords which have been incorporated into ready-made fragrances credited to other perfumers. He also composed The Pink Room perfume Parfum No.1 pour toi: "The Pink Room Parfum Number 1 was then created with the wonderful Guy Robert as mentor, guide and friend. It was an eidetic experience of the textures, colours and ambience of The Pink room. Having produced Number 1, it became clear to Sarah where her senses were leading her, in a very niche and special way." [quote: Sarah Barton-King]

In his work he served internatioal clients but also involved in the training of new perfumers. Guy Robert considered 'Amouage Gold' a symphony and the crowning glory of his career.
Robert was not without author's credentials either: His Les Sens du Parfum (where he lists some of his favorite perfumes, among them the original Quelques Fleurs, Coty's Cordon Vert alongside Coty's Chypre, Ambre Antique, Emeraude, L'Origan and devotes space to the opus of Germaine Cellier) is considered a handbook into appreciating the art of perfumes, while he served as President of La Société Française des Parfumeurs.

He will be sorely missed. Our condolences to his family.

Guy Robert's known perfume oeuvre comprises, apart from scented products for the body, perfumers' bases and cosmetics:

Untitled Series: Fragrance Detection & Appreciation of Pure Juice

Chandler Burr, the curator of The Department of Olfactory Art at New York's Museum of Arts and Design, the scent editor for GQ magazine and the former scent critic for The New York Times, is creating a project on OpenSky that’s never been done before. He’s bringing scent to life online.  It’s called the Untitled Series.


On the 1st of every month Chandler will choose a perfume that’s already on the market – some famous and some from niche collections.  From this scent, he will remove all marketing -- no bottle, no package, no brand, no name and will put the scent in a 50ml lab bottle – allowing you to experience these scent works as scent and nothing else. He will give shoppers only the guidance of his carefully chosen words to understand each and determine if the fragrance is right for them.  His goal is to both enable and encourage shoppers to rethink perfume as a work of art, free from all visual cues and marketing techniques. Scents include those from the late 19th century to last week, in all styles and all by the greatest scent artists in the world.  

There will be only 100 bottles available in the series, this month (the amount might slightly vary from month to month). The first fragrance called S01E01 (Season One Episode One) and will launch this Friday, June 1st on OpenSky and the identity of the scent as well as more about the artist who created it will be revealed to shoppers on the last day of June.  The series will continue with a new launch on the first of every month and a subsequent reveal on the last day of each month. 

pic via marthastewart.com

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Perfumer's Base: Animalis by Synarome

Largely unknown and thought of as coinnoisseur stuff, perfumers bases are simply ready-made "chords" of complimentary ingredients which create a unison effect for use when composing perfumes. It both aids with time constraints and it saves the trouble of having to reinvent a desired but tried& tested effect all over again, so the perfumer can concentrate on achieving something beyond the been there, done that. Legendary female perfumer Germaine Cellier, for reasons pertaining to both syllogisms, opted to compose with lots of perfumers' bases, resulting in a contemporary difficulty to replicate her formulae, as many of the ingredients for those bases or the bases themselves are now defunct or substituted. Nevertheless, some bases, such as the famous Mousse de Saxe base for Caron, the succulent peach base Persicol and the naughty Animalis by Synarome, have created their own history and have survived.


Perfume molecule producing company Synarome was founded in 1926 by Hubert Fraysse (of the prolific and renowned Fraysse clan) who created the famous speciality Ambrarome Absolu (a densely animalic chord reminiscent of natural ambergris). Nactis acquired Synarome in 2006, creating Nactis Synarome, who continue to provide fragrance compound specialties.

Synarome's most infamous classic "perfumer's base" though is Animalis, from which the term "animalic fragrances" has sprung; a feral, thick ambery yellow liquid, mostly insoluble in water but easily soluble in alcohol, with prominent civet and castoreum (both traditionally animal-derived products),  a cluster of musks and with costus root, a plant essence that has an uncanny resemblence to a mix of unwashed human hair, goat smell and dirty socks. The presence of phenolic-smelling, para cresol molecules also indicates a tannery tar & barnyard "stink". And yet he effect of the finished accord is envelopingly fur-like, powdery musky, warm, powerful, rich, decadent and yes, very animalic-smelling.

To get a feel for the classic accord, Animalis is featured in vintage Piguet's Visa, in all its "dirty" glory, created by Jean Carles (the man responsible for the skank-fest that is the classic Tabu, "un parfum de puta", a whore's brew). I also believe that Weil's Zibeline (a characteristic "parfum fourrure") features some of it in its core. Other vintages featuring lots of it is the rare Soft Youth Dew, one of two declinations of the classic Lauder Youth Dew in the 1970s (the other declination, the Intense Youth Dew was actually marketed later as... Cinnabar!, as per Octavian) and the less rare Mais Oui by Bourjois. It's also part of the mysterious urinous & musky allure of Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent (which indeed features a healthy dose of costus under phenyl acetate paracresol). But as much as it was favored during the classic era of perfumery, the traditional Animalis base fell out of favor in the middle of the 1980s.

Perfumery restrictions, which have axed the use of costus and eradicated the use of real animal ingredients, required a recalibration of the actual formula of Animalis, now allowed to be featured in up to 4% of the compound for perfume making. The base's stability has allowed it to not only be used in fine fragrance but also can be featured in shampoo, deodorant and creams. Modern Animalis perfume base includes 10-undecanal, linalool, alpha-pinene, β-Caryophyllene, limonene, heaps of cedrol and cedrene alpha. Mysteriously enough the final result ends up smelling animalic (smelling the fragrances containing it confirms this). The modern Animalis, animalic-smelling but without animal-derived ingredients, is featured in Vierge et Toreros by Etat Libre d'Orange and possibly the masculine Twill Rose by Parfums de Rosine.

For accuracy's sake, Synarome currently has not one but two distinct Animalis bases in their arsenal (the breakdown of ingredients above pertains to the first one): Animalis 1745-03 (which is Tonkin musk smelling, which is to say very warm, musky with a leathery nuance) and Animalis 5853 with woody & sensuous notes. The latest version of the former is Animalis 1745-03 TEC.
International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) offers a similar competitive product, called Cherval, but that one is less cedary and even more powerful. 

It's interesting to note that Animalis has not only been used in oriental perfumes, as would be expected them being the quintessential sensuous, langoruous fragrances evoking sexy thoughts, but also in citrus fragrances to exalt their fresh notes by way of contrast.

photo by Willy Ronis 1970 Nu au tricot raye

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dior La Collection Privee Oud Ispahan: new fragrance

Dior took siege of the oud bandwagon it seems: Besides their established Leather Oud, they're issuing a second "oud" fragrance in their Collection Privee line-up, this time combinging two exotic references in one in its name: Oud Ispahan.


The oud craze has taken almost every single perfume house on the planet vying for a perfume with the exotic-sounding prized Eastern material in the name to the point of boring perfume fanatics to tears. Largely this is just a trend that will eventually pass, relying on brain manipulation: mention a posh, exotic sounding material (oud/aoudh/agarwood) and let the audience dream about something different than what actually goes into the bottles. But we can't blame companies for wanting to produce what has proven successful commercially last time...can we?

Not only oud, not only Damascus Rose, but also amber, all rolled into one this time. Mysterious, grown-up hippy for women (and men, the fragrance is presented as a unisex offering) who want to smell sophisticated and orientalised, exotic and fascinating, Oud Ispahan is a fragrance release that will create some talk.
Of course the more seasoned perfumephiles among us will find that oud and rose is a classic combination that has been already explored, but Dior rather aims at consolidating a seeming Arabian authenticity than presenting a novel accord.

According to the official blurb, the notes are varied: “Oud Ispahan recreates Mr. Dior’s dreams of the Orient* through a striking Rose-Oud-Amber accord. Created by Dior Perfumer-Creator Francois Demachy, this universal scent features top notes of Labdanum Absolute, middle notes of Patchouli Essence from Indonesia and bottom notes of Oud Essence from Laos, Rose Essence from Turkey and Sandalwood Essence from New-Caledonia for a warm, spicy reinterpretation of Eastern locales.” According to perfumer Demachy it's "an immediate impression, an instant local snapshot of the Orient"

There's a bit of discrepancy here which I'd love to point out for our readers, just for history's sake: Christian Dior has been known to say, "As for the bazaars of Trebizond, on entering I felt as though I was heading into Ali Baba's magical cave." Trebizond, to be factual, is actually on the border of the Caucasus region and the Black Sea and bears the heritage of the Byzantine empire and its Greek populaces, and has nothing to do with what is commonly referenced as "Arabia", but let's allow this lumping of the Middle East into one exotic amalgam continue for Western tastes... The fragrance might prove to be spectacular regardless, so historical consideration might end up meaning nothing.

Oud Ispahan is going to be released in summer 2012 through Dior boutiques worldwide and will be available from 28th May in Selfridges Maison des Parfums on Oxford Street, London.
125ml of Dior's Oud Ispahan will set you back 125GBP, 250ml of juice go for 185GBP and 450ml cost 285GBP.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Perfume Term: Animalic Notes, the Skanky Smell of Sexy

Frequenting perfume discussion communities and reading reviews online you often come across the term "animalic". Though its evocation is that of...animal, obviously, its significance is more layered, less simple, as we will explore.

 Technically the term isn't even in the dictionary, or at the very least it is defined as "of or concerning animals". Yet the full story isn't restricted to that. Simply put an animalic perfume might do two things: 1)contain animal-derived products, i.e. raw materials directly harvested from animal sources or 2) evoke the animal in you, i.e. producing that "animalic growl" we associate with...well, you know.
I am going to explain both in detail, just let it be said in passing that the quoted phrase above was first used by (sadly) long-defunct blogger Cognoscenti back when she described scent in a visceral, highly imaginative way, both on her blog and on MakeupAlley. From then on, it caught on with most perfume reviewers online to the point it's become a foregone conclusion to almost hear the sound before reading the words.

But the etymology of "animalic" in perfumery has more to do with perfume molecule producing company Synarome's "perfumer's base" (i.e.a ready-made chord of complimentary ingredients for use when composing perfumes) called Animalis; a feral, thick mixture with prominent civet and castoreum (both traditionally animal-derived products),  a claster of musks and costus root (To get an idea, this base is featured in both vintage Piguet Visa and in Vierge et Toreros by Etat Libre d'Orange and possibly Twill Rose by Parfums de Rosine). Actually, for accuracy's sake, Synarome has not one but two Animalis bases in their arsenal: Animalis 1745-03 (which is Tonkin musk like, very musky) and Animalis 5853 with woody and sensuous notes.


The first explanation of animalic refering to animal-derived ingredients is rather a fantasy than a fact nowadays nevertheless, since most companies ~major and niche, high-end and lower-end~ have stopped using these ingredients, either due to ethical reasons for the safe-keeping of the animals, or due to the high costs associated, or due to legislation forbidding the use of certain of them (for instance owning ambergris is considered illegal in certain countries).

Traditionally animal harvested ingredients included fecal and perineum region gland essences from the Tibetan deer musk (Tonquin musk), civet (from the civet cat Civettictis civeta, technically not a cat at all), castoreum (from beavers) and ambergris (from the sperm whale). Of those four, only ambergris can be said not to hurt, irritate or threaten the animal in any way, as it is naturally excreted by the whale and found floating in the ocean. You can consult the links for more info on each and every one of those ingredients.
The reason such essences were used for centuries is because they instilled a warmth that morphed other ingredients into greatness (this is especially true of civet which lets floral essences "bloom" on the skin; see the classic Tabu which uses civet to reinforce the carnality call of jasmine, carnation & patchouli and was actively briefed as un parfum de puta to its perfumer Jean Carles!). Or they acted as fixatives, i.e. prolonging the duration of the aromatic components enough so that they do not evaporate as quickly (for instance the musk base in the traditional Eau de Cologne was meant to provide a little bit of anchoring to the fleeting hesperidic top notes and the herbal heart).

They were also useful in producing certain "notes", for instance castoreum was often used as a "leather scent note" in leather perfumes. Makes sense as real urine (alongside cow dung and other animal essences) were traditionally used to treat hides in tanneries, lending hides a distinctly animalic scent which needed further "masking" with flowers. Did I just spoil your luxe fantasies? Sorry....
A good example where the leathery scent is clearly "animalic" -as in sweaty, horsey hide- is Paco Rabanne's La Nuit. A subtler example where the musky note recalls circus animals droppings amidst the sawdust smelled from afar is Dzing! by L'Artisan Perfumeur.And yet, these are fabulous perfumes, polarising yes, but with a strange pull to them.
These animalistic notes can also be provocative as hell; see Kiehl's Original Musk Musc Ravageur by Editions de Parfums F.Malle , the intensely animal-like Ajmal Musk Gazelle or the undulating between polite society & barnyard tryst L'Air de Rien by Miller Harris. The effect? Same as in 1950s and 1960s trend of wearing leopard or cheetah-printed coats and accessories; there's something dangerous, wild, untamed about the person sporting such an item, be it fashions or perfume.

But animal-derived ingredients can expand (and indeed they have in many artisanal lines today) into more esoteric things than just musky smells, like "African stone" (dried excrement from hyrax, a small rodent, like in Lord Jester's Dionysus) or choya nak (essence from toasted sea-shells, such as in Fairchild by natural perfumer Anya mcCoy of Anya's Garden). The olfactory effects rendered by these innovative, non-classical essences can be surprising and very pleasing: Although initially sounding strange, they manage to evoke the intimacy and warmth of living things. Which is the whole point of "animalic" in the first place, isn't it.
Even indolic perfume notes or some varieties of synthesized musk fragrances (containing none of the natural deer musk) can fall into the umbrella of "animalic" should they be given a proper context to shine. Cumin can smell intimate like sweat if it's treated in a rich composition with spices. Costus root can be reminiscent of unwashed hair, in more intimate places than just head, as in vintage Fille d'Eve by Nina Ricci. Cassie can come across as womanly, ripe for the plucking. The mastery lies in the perfumer knowning what he/she's after.

The second explanation of the term "animalic" is perhaps more tortured, possibly the most elusive. How does one define what "brings out the animal", or maybe the anima -if we're to use Jungian terms- in you? Surely attraction, arousal, excitement of the senses is a highly individual thing. And why has this been tied to "dirty" smells, as in smells pertaining to the armpit, the vulva, the penis, the anus, the urethra and the region therein? As Jean Paul Guerlain, master perfumer at Guerlain perfume, used to say about his perfumes, they were made to subtly evoke his mistress's more intimate regions and that involved all three holes. Of course older Guerlains, before the times of Jean Paul, can be naughty in a more discreet way; Mouchoir de Monsieur or Voilette de Madame hide a polite civet note in there.
What is it about our nether regions that is so olfactorily attractive, as if we were dogs sniffing each other in the butt while exchanging social hellos?


Animalic is largely a subjective term in this sense pertaining to perfume (no one's crotch smells exactly the same as the person's next to them), especially since perfume is conceived and traditionally used as an adornment that should elevate us over our basest instincts; a sort of sophistication and refinement that differentiates man from beast. This is an interesting dichotomy and at the same time an irony. Some of the most revered and masterful fragrances are indeed comprised from base smells, smells of the lower instincts. But I wonder, how is man able to elevate himself over the animal if beforehand he doesn't embrace the animal in him and rejoice in its constituents?

Apparently when speaking about animalic perfumes there are a few parameters peeking through as a constant. An animalic scent should be warm, rich, creating an aura of lived-in things (this is in part the allure of "skin scents"), maybe a tad pungent, but overall giving off sexiness; sexiness in the sense of actually making you think about sex, not just media-broadcasted images of what we should consider sexy (perky full breasts, chiseled pectorals, globulal butts, you name it), but sexy as in down and dirty, in all our imperfections, in all our natural secretions sans deodorant.
This is why animalic is often uttered in the same breath as "skanky smelling", a term coined to denote on the one hand the sickly sweetish scent of skanks the animals themselves (with which many have not unpleasant associations), but also the promiscuous and physical nature of "skanks", the women who don't employ subtlety in their seduction routine, to put it politely. What is it about an overt display of sexuality that is so compelling, be it a manifestation in a feminine or a masculine fragrance interchanged between the sexes? What is it about smell which brings us to our more primitive level when the instinct of procreation, the instinct of sexual desire, the desire for life is conquering even the omnipresent fear of death?


In that regard, animalic scents can be said to encompass a wide grey area of fragrance taxonomy, from the outwardly civet-trumpeting fecal nuances such as in Bal a Versailles by Jean Desprez, the classic Schocking by Sciaparelli (based on a woman's odorata sexualis) and Tolu by Ormonde Jayne to the musk-evocing Muscs Kublai Khan (with added civet and castoreum notes) and Bois et Musc by Serge Lutens ~as well as the more hidden sexuality of musks & once real, now synthetic, civet in the drydown of lady-like Chanel No.5. There's the civet in "parfum de puta" (whore's brew) Tabu by Dana; this was verbatim the brief!

And from there to even more distant, unthought of arpeggios; such as the cumin-laced Femme by Rochas and Kingdom by Alexander McQueen; the ripe garbage stink beneath the lemon and melon freshness of Diorella; the cassie absolute in Une Fleur de Cassie (F.Malle) or the intense urinous scent of Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent and the gloriously honeyed "piss" in Absolue pour le Soir (Maison F.Kurkudjian) and Miel de Bois (Serge Lutens) ~thanks to the alchemy of phenylacetic acid. Chanel Antaeus and Yatagan by Caron are also rich in questionable scents, but oh so compelling. Yatagan by Caron is this direction's logical zenith.
Even citrusy, vivacious things can hide a sweaty, dirty skin quality beneath fresh notes (usually neroli and petitgrain are perfect foils for this sort of sweat scent masking, as they share a common component with sweat). Eau d'Hermès is one such example. Cartier Déclaration is another. Not coincidentally, the latter is loosely inspired by the former.

Sometimes the animal just lurks in the shadow, intimidating and breath-taking...Onda by Vero Profumo certainly creates that image; we sense its habitat, we guess it's there. Givenchy Gentleman is menacing. Sometimes it's in plain sight, more apparent and therefore less suggestive; think of the male parts smell that Rose Poivrée by The Different Company used to have until recently.

Animalic scents can create fear, like sex itself and its sheer potency has created fear in the minds of puritans and church-abiding citizens who made the rules in the past, in an effort to control what is perhaps most liberating in humans, sex drive itself. But animalic scents can also create real lust, intellectual appreciation and that most prized sentiment of them all: empathy for the human condition...

Which are YOUR OWN favorite animalic perfumes?

mouchoir de monsieur bottle pic via  insidekevinguyer.blogspot.com, of Dzing bottle via parfum-photo.livejournal.com

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Serge Lutens Une Voix Noire: new fragrance

The upcoming Lutens fragrance which I have been in the lucky position to confirm about before its official announcement is called Une Voix Noire (a black voice) and is reprising a few of the master's favorite themes: darkness in name and mood, homage to mythical personalities, narcotic effects....


Une Voix Noire is Serge's homage to Billie Holiday, the doomed blues singer with the penchant for gardenia which he used to put in her hair (indeed lots of photographs of the singer show her sporting blossoms on her dark hair). And true to form Lutens choose this white flower in all its heavy, ripe glory to represent his idea of darkness against the whiteness of its petals. After his forway into carnation with Vitriol d'Oeillet, the master reprises flowers, giving them his unique touch, hopefully much like he did with Tubéreuse Criminelle and Un Lys.
Following in the footsteps of the discontinued but revered Velvet Gardenia by Tom Ford, with its mouldy, wet, mushroom-like ripe ambience, could the Lutens gardenia Une Voix Noire be the next gardenia perfume to make a dramatic entrance in the cosmos of the perfume cognoscenti?

Une Voix Noire will be presented in Paris on June 1st 2012 at Les Palais du Salon Royal in Paris, France. From then on it will be available commercially in the Paris exclusives line in the bell jars this summer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Perfumery Material: Cassie & Mimosa & Differences with Cassia & Cassis

I well recall seeing farmers collecting gum from the acacia tree for use as gum arabic substitute in Australia years ago, their agile hands working effortlessly. It was a sight to behold, the pom poms of rich yellow cascading down the branches. There is an intimate scent to this little bloom, instilling a sense of longing and nostalgia, the ache from the past we long to go back to.

 In Greece we call acacia "γαζία", especially the saturated Farnesiana variety and it is among my first scented childhood memories, not least because a huge tree grew under our house; the euphonic word matches the rich, intense aroma with its almost boozy, lightly spicy undertone.

The yellow 'mimosas' of the florist shops are actually acacias, as "true mimosas" never have yellow flowers.

Many acacias have fragrant flowers but only two species, Acacia decurrens var. dealbata and A. farnesiana are utilized in perfumery.


Cassie, the intimate, animalic essence

Cassie flower absolute is extracted from the flora of the Acacia Farnesiana shrub, itself named after the Villa Farnese where the semi-tropical plant was transplated for ornamental reasons. The plant is named after Odoardo Farnese (1573–1626) of the notable Italian family which under the patronage of cardinal Alessandro Farnese, maintained some of the first private European botanical gardens in Rome, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Farnese Gardens at Carparola. They later became famous for importing acacia to Italy from the Caribbean and Central America, henceforth the name stuck to the plant.




Known as Cassier du Levant in the South of France, the scent of cassie (from the Acacia farnesiana) is rich in benzaldehyde, anisic aldehyde, and a violet-smelling ketone, rendering the essence sensuous and shadowy fleshy like the contours of a soft feminine body through gauzy garments. It also contains eugenol, methyleugenol, coumarin, cuminaldehyde (giving that intimate tonality), decanal (aldehyde C10), cresol, methyl salicilate and nerolidol. Among floral notes, cassie is perhaps the most overtly womanly and even though it's technically a flower, it's usually classified under anisic smells which might explain how some people find it a difficult note to claim their own in fragrances.

The scent profile of cassie absolute is warm, honeyed, iris-powdery and quite balsamic with a hint of cinnamon, berry and aniseed, combined with a herbaceous floral effect. Its aroma therapeutical properties include help in dealing with stress and depression. It's no accident that in the myth of Isis and Osiris the tree of life has characteristics of the acacia tree. Its bark's smoke has a profylactic use in ancient lore and is used to put the gods in a good mood. Roots and resin from acacia are still combined with rhododendron, acorus, cytisus, salvia and some other components for making incense in Nepal and regions of China.
Favored as a scarce and therefore most valuable perfume ingredient, cassie has been harnessed in several renditions from Caron's Farnesiana to Coty's La Jacée through Creed's Aubepine Acacia, but nowhere is the flesh-like honeyed richness, from bark to thorny stem to sugary-spun blossom, best interpreted than in Dominique Ropion's masterpiece Une Fleur de Cassie for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. There the marriage of the exoticism and the animalic, almost bestial warmth of cassie with the more classic jasmine & rose shine into a tapestry where every thread is shining with its own gleam. The fragrance is lush, disturbing, almost too voluptuous. Une Fleur de Cassie also contains the more innocent mimosa absolute, a sweet note counterpointed by spicy carnation, smooth sandalwood and a hint of vanilla.

Mimosa, a cloud of sugar-spun innocence

Mimosa possesses that precious trait of innocence we associate with childhood, the sugar-spun scent close to heliotrope without the almondy nuances, soft like a cloud, dreamy like the first ray of spring sun on the February tree branches, lively and luminous like a promise of happiness. It's interesting to note that mimosa absolute figures highly in recreations of the elusive note of lilac in perfumery and of lily of the valley fragrances. The main constituent in mimosa flowers is farnesol which acts as an insect pheromone. (It's also found in other flowers, such as cyclamen, tuberose, and rose as well as an ingredient in the composition of several balsams and in neroli oil).

Two types of mimosa are most common: Acacia Pycnantha (literally "of dense flowers") is the floral emblem of Australia, while Acacia dealbata (wattle) is a similar b variant often presented to women and refered to as "mimosa"; it's probably what most people associate with mimosa. A variant called mimosa pudica is called "shy plant, because it closes its compound leaves inwards when touched and is in fact a "true" mimosa. Mimosa can be distinguished from the large related genera, Acacia and Albizia, since its flowers have 10 or fewer stamens.


Common Confusions

Silk Tree is often erroneously referred to as "mimosa", but in reality it is a different tree with brightly pink flowers with thread-like stamens in the shape of a Spanish fan belognging in the Albizia genus.You can get a sense of the scent of silk tree if you smell Dior's best-selling feminine perfume J'Adore.
Cassia and cassis, though linguistically close to cassie, have nothing to do with it. Cassia is a spicy note coming from the Cinnamonum cassia, while cassis refers to a synthetically recreated berry-lychee perfumers' "base" much used in 1980s and American perfumery with a nod to blackcurrant buds (bourgeons de cassis in French). You can smell lots of the latter in Lancome's Poeme and in Tiffany for women by Tiffany.

Fragrances with a notable cassie/mimosa note (with distinction on which uses which essence when unclear from the name):

Acca Kappa Mimosa
Annick Goutal Le Mimosa
Ayala Moriel Les Nuages de Joie Jaune
Calypso Christiane Celle Mimosa
Caron Farnesiana (cassie)
Chanel No.5 (mimosa)
Creed Aubepine Acacia
Czech & Speake Mimosa
DSH Perfume Mimosa 
Estée Lauder Private Collection (cassie)
Fragonard Mimosa
Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie
Givenchy Amarige (mimosa)
Givenchy Amariage Harvest Mimosa 2005
Givenchy Amarige Harvest Mimosa 2007
Givenchy Amarige Harvest Mimosa 2009
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Tiare Mimosa
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Grosellina (cassie)
Guerlain Après L’Ondée (cassie)
Guerlain Champs Elysées (mimosa)
Hermès Calèche Fleurs de Méditerranée
Hermès Kelly Calèche (mimosa)
Halle Berry Halle (mimosa)
L'Artisan Parfumeur Mimosa pour Moi
L'Erbolario Mimosa
L'Occitane Voyage en Mediterranee Mimosa de l'Esterel
Molinard Les Fleurs: Mimosa
Patricia de Nicolai Mimosaique
Shiseido Zen (mimosa)
Yves Rocher Pur Desir de Mimosa

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Travel Memoirs Grasse, France & the Route de Mimosa

Credits: window overlooking acacia via journal.illuminatedperfume.com, acacia pic via bestgarden.gr, Villa Farnese via gardenvisit.com, bottle via luxe-psychologies.fr

Now Bottled: Schoolgirl "Urine" and "Armpit Smell"

There's no accounting for taste. Previously, Tamatoys sold bottled "schoolgirl smell" Then again it also sold striped underpants for cross-dressing men, so there's no accounting for what sells either.

But the latest products, "schoolgirl urine" and "schoolgirl armpit smell" claim realism; composed by a "scent specialist" they offer a gimmicky product for those "who can stomach the scent—or the idea of the scent, or the idea of buying the scent, or the mere concept of these goods". [quote]
According to Akiba Blog, which smelled both scents, the pee fragrance was "fruity" (an early case of diabetes perhaps?), while the sweat one was "stinkier". Both are priced at ¥1,480 (US$19) at Akihabara's Lammtarra and they're really aimed as adult gag gifts, rather than actual fragrance. The Japanese are known for some fetish love but they draw the line someplace. The audience in Japan is as puzzled as we are by the news.

pic via tweetbuzz.us

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fifi Awards Winners 2012

The Fragrance Foundation (FiFi) has just announced their "Oscars" for perfumery.
Here they are:


Luxe:
Women's: Tom Ford Violet Blonde
Men's Gucci Guilty pour Homme

Perfume Extraordinaire:
Bond No.9 New York Oud

Nouveau Niche:
both men's & women's category: Jasmine Rouge by Tom Ford

Broad Appeal:
Women's: Heidi Klum Shine
Men's: E.Arden Curve Appeal for Men

Consumer Direct:
Y.Rocher Comme une Evidence Green

Speciality Brand:
Anthropologie 1922 Lily Sanguine

Consumer's Choice:
Women's Voctoria's Secret Angel
Men's B&BW Signature Collection for Men Classic

Home Scent:
Diptyque 34 Blv.Saint Germain

Bath & Body Line:
Armani Aqua di Gioia

Best Packaging:
Women's Prada Candy
Men's: John Varvatos

Media Campaigns:
Women's Chanel Coco Mademoiselle
Men's Gucci Guilty pour Homme

Celebrity Scent of the year:
Justin Bieber Someday


Catch what all the categories stand for and the latest news on the official FiFi blog.
Personally I'm underwhelmed (so many misses, such unexpected choices within the same brand). And you?




Monday, May 21, 2012

Frederic Malle Iris Poudre: fragrance review

There is a human, flawed sublayer beneath the icy, perfect Hitchockian beauty of Betty Draper from Mad Men, which manifests itself when the woman is emotionally beaten to pulp by the final realisation her husband is actually cheating on her. The mask-like layer falls off and the melting face, crumbling updo and wrinkly tulle dress falling off the shoulders instill human empathy in us, hinting at a crack of the perfect facade. Iris Poudre is the Betty Draper, née Hofstadt, in the Frederic Malle line of perfumes, the icy coolness of Grace Kelly incarnate, when faced with the line "You're so profoundly sad" to only tentatively reply "No, it's just that my people are Nordic". Brrrr...  



Iris Poudre needs no introduction, really. Catherine Deneuve cites it in the foreward of F.Malle's new book as the fragrance that drew her from her beloved Guerlain into "fragrance infidelity" with the likes of Malle & company. A random choice? I think not.
Within the confines of this much esteemed niche brand that caters to the tastes of perfumephiles and perfumers both, this scent holds a firm place of distinction due to its haute elegance: The former group appreciates Malle because they can sample the vision of some of the best noses of our days with trully good ingredients. The latter group because they are at last given free reign to do what they had always wanted to do but couldn't, due to commercial restrictions.

Inspirations
Iris Poudre was created by Pierre Bourdon, one of the finest noses in the field and arguably one of the most personable ones to talk to. Frédéric Malle reveals that it was the first fragrance created in the line: his collaboration and appreciation of Bourdon goes a long way back. The initial inspiration for Iris Poudre is a substance called "concrétolide", a legendary French iris base that was the heart of many perfume classics from the period between the two world wars. The finished result was drawing inspiration from the famous 1960s film Belle de Jour, starring none other than...Catherine Deneuve!
Malle professes that "if it were a garment, it would be a cashmere sweater - classic but personal, appropriate for most occasions, something one never tires of".

Scent Profile
Although touted to be a grand floral aldehydic, to me it has no distinct relation to aldehydic fragrances that people perceive as typical of their classification, such as Chanel No.5, Madame Rochas or Arpège. It is subtler and less sparkly, more softly, cooly powdery. However it does have touches of the chilly allure and rosiness of YSL Rive Gauche or Paco Rabanne Calandre, both scents with a beautiful coolness contrasted with a little warmth in the base. There is a repressed sensuality about this scent, like the cool exterior of perfectly proportioned glacially faced Severine who goes to spend the afternoons as a high-class prostitute in her sexual frustration.  Dihydromyrcenol gives that steely ambience of scrubbed countertops, hissy clean citrus. Muscenone (a musky substance) gives human warmth sensed underneath the perfect facade.

Iris Poudre utilises the caramel butteriness of tonka bean, the cosiness of the musks and just a hint of fluffy vanilla to instill that faint warmth that surrounds you like a precious pashmina on a chilly evening on a walk back from the theatre or an art exhibit. Until you hear that your husband slept with someone you wouldn't even consider worth sleeping with, of course!

Notes for F.Malle Iris Poudre : aldehydes, iris, ylang ylang ,rose, vetiver, musk, vanilla, tonka bean.

photo credits: top January Jones as Betty Draper from Mad Men TV show via wikimedia commons and bottom via telegraph.co.uk

A Biopic on Yves Saint Laurent

French director Bertrand Bonello (of "L'Apollonide, souvenirs de la maison close" fame) will direct a biopic on Yves Saint-Laurent, the famous and renowned designer who passed away in June 2008, according to Screen magazine, a film industry weekly publication.

The film will focus on the couturier's most iconoclastic period between 1965 and 1976, when he literally wrote fashion history almost single-handledly. No choice of main protagonist has been made yet, according to Eric et Nicolas Altmayer who are behind the film's funding (as they have been behind Ozon's films) but filming is set to begin in 2013. The photo shows designs by YSL from left to right from 1976, 1971 and 1990.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Josephine Catapano: 1918- 2012

Joséphine Catapano, a long time perfumer with International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) and one of the few celebrated women perfumers in the business, passed away last Tuesday at the age of 93.

Catapano was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Perfumers in 1993 and the Cosmetic Career Women's Award in 1980. She is considered one of the truly greats and Sophia Grojsman, herself a veteran, considers her her mentor. Among Joséphine Catapano's scented creations is the classic Youth Dew for Estee Lauder (working alongside Ernest Shiftan) and the equally classic if considerably less known Norell (circulating under Revlon for many years), as well as the first Shiseido Zen and Fidji for Guy Laroche. Alas, her name never made headlines like perfumers today; in an era when perfume was shrouded in mystery, the true creator was never revealed...

photo via yesterday's perfume

Frequent Questions: How to Make your Fragrance Last Longer

Many of us don’t fully realize how fragrance creates a lasting first impression, which is difficult to shake; perfume invades a space with each breath and speaks for us in ways no words can express. But many are those worrying about their carefully chosen fragrance not actually withstanding the time lapse it takes from putting it on and actually arriving and meeting those they mean to impress with it. So we turned to international fragrance expert Arnaud Marolleau for suggestions and I supplemented with a few tried & tested tips of my own so as to provide a brief but useful guide into how to make your perfume last longer.


Choose an intense olfactory family to begin with. Olfactory families denote a general classification that gives the character of a fragrance, as in how it translates to others: citrus or floral or woody for instance are three different categories, respectively characterised by the preponderance of citrus fruit essences, scents evoking flowers or aromata deriving from big trees such as cedar, sandalwood etc. Of course they do not only include the above mentioned ingredients, but that's the predominant impression. There are more esoteric fragrance families, such as chypre and fougere for which you will need to consult our Chypre fragrance accord guide or Fougère fragrance accord guide, if you're unfamiliar with those.

According to Marolleau, the purpose of having an intense effect out of your perfume is best served by chypres, woodies or oriental scents. Chypre is a family of perfumes that are characterized by a citrus top note (traditionally bergamot), a floral middle and a mossy-musk base comprised by labdanum and oakmoss in classic perfumes or recently a base of vetiver and patchouli in "nouveau chypres" (these involve perfume releases in the last 10 years or less). “Chypre fragrance has more than 60 percent comprised of base notes; it is a very enveloping, sensual and sophisticated fragrance, while woody is very good for business.”
You can find fragrance reviews of chypre, woody scents  and oriental perfumes on the corresponding links.

Choose a more concentrated form of your favorite fragrance. There are several fragrance concentrations (ratio of aromatic essences in alcohol and water), such as Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum and Extrait de Parfum (If you don't know which is which, click on the link). If in doubt opt for the higher concentration vs. the weaker one; such as Eau de Parfum over Eau de Toilette or pure parfum over Eau de Parfum. Usually this technique provides a better anchoring, the more concentrated version being richer in base notes which have a low volatility rate Just beware that some fragrances (for instance some Chanels, Narciso Rodriguez for Her or Dior J'Adore many perfume editions) can be slightly different in formula -and thus in their aesthetic effect- among their different concentrations; sample smartly before you invest!

Outsmart the weather, especially humidity. Cold weather tends to hold some notes, especially lush florals and balsams into check. This is why often some tropical fragrances smell all wrong in the wintertime or in northern climates. But heat and humidity can also alter the evolution of a perfume: heat volatilises essences quicker and as to humidity, “humidity is the vampire of fragrance,” said Marolleau. Humidity also makes you sweat more, which in itself alters the intended scent of any given perfume.
In order for the scent to last, you must wear it in as dry an environmen as possible. This means that if you're working in an air-conditioned office or use the air-condition in your car, you will perceive your scent for longer. Of course this isn't always practical! The best thing to do is to have a little bottle in your handbag and renew your fragrance accordingly, taking in mind the surroundings you're going to be in so as not to overdo it.

Improve your skin condition to make fragrance hold. If your skin is dry, the fragrance will never last as long as you want it to. Why? There is nothing for the scent to stick onto making the fragrance evaporate quicker. The easiest suggestion is to wear body lotion all the time to keep skin moisturized. It doesn't need to be scented in a matching scent as your perfume, though that is a romantic and indulgent idea (called "layering a scent") Unscented moisturizer will mean you can use it with whichever fragrance you plan to wear. You can also make your own: Put a little lotion in the palm of your hand and then spray or pour a tiny bit of your fragrance in that little "pool". Rub your palms together to mix and apply on your skin. Yummy!
I also recommend putting a bit of jojoba oil on still damp skin after your bath/shower, especially on places where you will wear fragrance later on. Jojoba is very simpatico to most skins, even oily ones, and is so close to skin sebum that it doesn't alter the scent profile of your perfume or your own body scent.
Also please consult some of the perfume application tricks in our How to Best Apply your Fragrance guide. Several of them help fragrances radiate better and last longer.


 Ref: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net
Mad Men, Christina Hendricks as Joan Halloway in front of the mirror with her perfumes tray

The Scent of Departure

The new Scent of Departure line —a self-proclaimed “fragrance airline" is based on an exciting concept: a city bottled in a perfume. Created by perfumer Gérald Ghislain (of Histoires de Parfums) and designer Magali Sénéquier, the fragrance line comprises a different scent for 19 top international cities, from Los Angeles to Abu Dabi all the way to Singapore. Named after airport codes (LAX, SIN, etc.), each scent was created with very specific individual ingredients reminiscent of its respective metropolis.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Donors for the Department of the Olfactory Art: An Eclectic Crowd

The Scent exhibit curated by Chandler Burr at the Department of the Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts & Design in NYC is going strong. Donations form the backbone of any scientific or artistic venture with any hope of distinguishing itself so it's heartening to hear things go well for Burr's project.


For 2012 the lookout looks like this:
The Estée Lauder Companies:  Founding Major Donor
Chanel:  Major Donor (both 2012 and 2013)
P&G Prestige:  Major Donor
Hermès:  Major Donor IFF Major Donor
Guerlain:  Funder
Arcade:    Funder
WFFC:    Friend

The donors of the Department of Olfactory Art fall into the following categories
 Friends: $5,000 to $24,900
Supporters: $25,000 to 49,000
Funders: $50,000 to $99,000
Major Donors: $100,000 and above

 Looks like both the industry has embraced this innovative approach of appreciating the juice itself and that the money is flowing freely to support this venture. All around wishes for the best outcome!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Guerlain Les Deserts d'Orient ~Encens Mythique d'Orient, Rose Nacree du Desert, Songe d'un Bois d'Ete: new fragrances

Guerlain does Middle East. At last! After several companies catered to the affluent and genuinely discerning Middle-East market, an audience intent on appreciating perfumes through a profound familiarity with good ingredients and complex compositions, Guerlain has joined this trend.  
Les Déserts d'Orient (Oriental Deserts) comprises three fragrances, inspired by mythical raw materials of Middle Eastern origin: incense, rose and oud. The fragrances are exclusively destined for the United Arab Emirates with some discussion into expanding distribution into Qatar and Kuwait later on. The Paris flagship boutique will eventually feature them as well.


This new trio of oriental fragrances is a tribute to enchanting Arabia with creations that represent the Orient in all its original splendor. The perfumes are credited to head perfumer Thierry Wasser who focused on every possible nuance of the Arabian Nights for this Middle Eastern opus with exotic names. This is Guerlain and at the same time it's beyond Guerlain, "savage and dark", pettering out into a place of legend and lore.

The Exclusive Collection Les Déserts d'Orient by Guerlain comprises:

Encens Mythique d’Orient : A smoky effect, aromatic waves, a divine emotion. Inspired by frankincense, but given a typical Guerlain treatment, this sweet & bright musky oriental composition fuses aldehydes with neroli, moss, saffron, Persian rose, ambergris and musk to render incense new again.  

Rose Nacrée du Désert : An intense rose, a bold flower, an established mystery. A fragrance built on lush Persian rose, the legendary blossom of the east. Creamy yet dark, rose is given a mysterious air via saffron, patchouli and a hint of agarwood (oud), fanned on rich benzoin resin.  

Songe d’un Bois d’été : A deep leather, sumptuous woods, supreme momentum. Dry, spicy, smoky effect with authentic oud nuances; the woodiness is based on cedar, the jasmine heart gives an individual touch. Saffron and cardamom provide the spiciness, laurel a dry aromatic touch. Oud, myrrh, patchouli and leathery notes complete the base notes of this intriguing composition.

The bottles are adorned with Arab-cript calligraphy down one side, the French names down the other side. They are the tall, architectural style of the collection L'Art et la Matière with the antique gold overlay on the sides holding 75ml of perfume. The concentration of the fragrances is Eau de Parfum for tenacity. Prices are set for 190euros/AED990 per bottle.  

Reviews on all of them coming up soon!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Donna Karan Gold: fragrance review

Donna Karan strived for a lushly feminine lily effect with her stupendous Gold fragrance for women in 2006. Its mix of vibrant lily with animalic profundity puts Gold on a pedestral of worship, that of a stony goddess who demands the coming of Choephoroi.


The fragrance necessitated no less than 3 perfumers of the caliber of Yann Vasnier, Calice Becker and Rodrigo-Flores Roux. Usually that would be a recipe for disaster (too many opinions and twinkering often lead to an incoherent vision), yet in Gold the result is none the worse for trying. On the contrary.

Scent Description 

The main accord in DK Gold focuses on bright, trembling with life lily, suave woods plus musk, effecting a round and creamy composition accented with discernable jasmine adding its indolic glory. The opening of Donna Karan Gold has the dewy freshness of green tonalities of muguet, vaguely reminiscent of the green overture of Annick Goutal's Des Lys (another floriental focusing on Casablanca lilies) and the sharper start of Lys Mediteranée by F.Malle. Although the floral phase is clearly discernible from the start, the more the scent dries down the more the sensuous aspects reveal themselves beneath the droplets of lucid coolness. Underneath, a camphoreous scent is peeking through, like a riddle on the edge of the screenshot in a Greenaway film : now you see it and now you don't.
The development of Gold in the Eau de Parfum concentration adds a very alluring animalic submantle which hints at ductile leather and ambergris rather than the traditional resinous amber mentioned, yet it doesn't do so with too much rebelliousness, remaining a sensual touch warming the proceedings and adding gravitas. Perhaps Gold, although certainly not ground-breaking, is a knowing wink of Donna Karan to her first perfume, the long discontinued Donna Karan New York in the phallic black bottle, which utilized lily, amber and suede to great effect.

Concentrations & Notes

Please note that Donna Karan Gold comes in Eau de Parfum concentration, which is warmer and much more complex than the more aqueous and linear Eau de Toilette, as well as a Sparkling Eau de Toilette. Between those versions Eau de Parfum is highly recommended as per above, also being much closer to the revered Serge Lutens Un Lys. Parfum amplifies the cistus and incense with more vanilla.
The elegant bottle is created by jewellery designer Robert Lee Morris.

Current distribution of DK Gold is bust; get some while you can on online discounters.

Notes for DK Gold: Casablanca Lily, Amber, Acacia, White Clove, Golden Balsam*, Gold Pollen and Patchouli

 *a mix of Peru tolu balsam, olibanum, benzoin, vanilla, and cistus

Photo of French actress Eva Green via Google (have since forgotten the exact source)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Structure of a Perfume: What it is, How to Achieve it and the Myth of the Fragrance Pyramid

Consider flipping through a fashion magazine for a minute: Sandwiched between glossy pages of advertising with models in ecstatic surrender to the sheer beauty of any given potion of seduction, you will find editorial guides that teach you that fragrances are classified in olfactory "families" and that they develop like music "chords" into top notes, heart notes and base notes, built into a "fragrance pyramid": maximum volatility* ingredients first; medium-diffusion materials following them after the intial impression vanishes; tenacious, clinging for dear life materials last. That should make it easier, right? Well, not exactly.


 The thing is most contemporary fragrances are not built as neatly and the bulk of fragrance descriptors are written with a marketing consideration to begin with. It's not a plot to mislead, but the industry is still shrouded in mystery, offering a rough blueprint rather than an analytical Google map into the largely uncharted terrain of fragrance composition. After all, look what happens with "perfume notes"; we're given the effect in the press material but the real ingredient hiding behind the fragrance note is something else entirely.

So how does one go about it?

 The Fragrance Pyramid and Other Myths of Mysterious Structure 

 Recalling Pharaonic mysteries more than hard science the term "fragrance pyramid" entered the vernacular as a means to educate the public into how perfumes are actually constructed. It was legendary perfumer Jean Carles (Shiaparelli Shocking, Dana's Tabu and Canoe, Miss Dior) who used this stratagem to explain a perfume to an industry outsider. The "fragrance pyramid" concept embodies the classic three-tiered French structure of such great perfumes of yore as Ma Griffe by Carven (another Jean Carles creation) or Bal a Versailles (Desprez), where the denouement reveals distinct phases resembling a 3-D presentation. You get all different angles while the perfume dries down on the skin; a slow, engaging process to an often unexpected end.

 Consider too one of the tightest traditional perfume structures, the "chypre" (the name derives from the homonymous archetype perfume by Francois Coty, in turn inspired by the ancient blends from the island of Cyprus, i.e. Chypre in French): a harmonious blend (i.e. an accord) of bergamot (a citrus fruit from the Mediterranean basin), labdanum (a resinous extraction from rockrose) and oakmoss (a lichen from oaks). This compact form, like a musical sonata, has a clear progression of themes, from elegantly sour to resinous/sweet, down to mossy/earthy, but all work together in simultaneous harmony, becoming more than the sum of their parts. On top of this basic skeleton perfumers may add flowers, fruits, grasses or leather notes, giving a twist to this or that direction like a shift to a kaleidoscope; this allows them to flesh out the core's striking bone structure, just like makeup accents luscious lips and expressive eyes over solid jaws and prominent cheekbones.

Not every fragrance is built on the pyramid structure (or the "chypre accord" for that matter), nor is it a foolproof guide of deciphering a perfume's message. Guerlain's Après L'Ondée (1906) plays with the contrast of warm & cool between just two main ingredients: violet and heliotrope; the rest are accessories.

 Comparing Guerlain Shalimar (1925), Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps (1948) and Lancôme Trésor (1990) we come across three different styles of composing, of structuring a fragrance: The first is reminiscent of older-style fixation of natural ingredients (lots of bergamot) via the triplet of animal products (civet, an animal secretion), balsamic materials (benzoin, Peru balsam) and sweet elements (vanilla, tonka bean). The second is pyramidal. The third is almost linear, the same tune from start to finish, a powerful message on speakers.

 In linear fragrances the effect is comparable to the unison of a Gregorian chant: the typically fresh top seems entirely missing, replaced by trace amounts of intensely powerful materials boosting the character. Lauder's White Linen or Giorgio by Giorgio Beverly Hills are characteristic examples. Sophia Grojsman was in fact the one who introduced this minimalist style with maximalist effect, composing an accord of 4-5 ingredients that comprise almost 80% of the formula (as in Trésor, based on a formula originally made for herself). This accord was then flanked by other materials to provide richness and complexity. Times have changed, fragrance launches have multiplied like Gremlins pushed into the ocean and consumers' attention span has withered to a nanosecond on which to make a buying decision. No wonder contemporary perfumes are specifically constructed to deliver via a short cell-phone texting rather than a Dickens novel published in instalments in a 19th century periodical. Other considerations, such as robot lab compounding, industry restrictions on classical ingredients due to skin sensitising concerns and the minimalist school of thought emerging at the expense of Baroque approaches, leave recent launches with increasingly shorter formulae. But that's not de iuoro bad either. One of the masterpieces of perfumery, Guerlain's Mitsouko, consists of a short formula! A succinct, laconic message.

 Some fragrances are built like a contrapuntal Bach piece and others like Shostakovich: Comparing a fragrance by Jean Carles or Edmond Roudnitska with one from Sophia Grojsman or Jean Claude Ellena are two different experiences. That does not mean that contemporary perfumes are devoid of architectural merit. On the contrary. Refined compositions like Osmanthe Yunnan or Ambre Narguilé (both boutique-exclusive Hermès, called Hermessences) showcase the potential of this school. Structure is not only given by arranging the volatility of ingredients. It's how each material plays its delineated role into achieving the overall fragrance. Structure is consolidated by using the requisite materials and ratios to provide what is commonly referred to as "the bones" of a fragrance. Most often these materials happen to be synthetic, because they consist of a single molecule (in contrast a natural, such as rose absolute, can contain hundreds of molecules), they're stable and produce a closely monitored effect in tandem with other dependables.


For instance Grojsman's Trésor uses a staggering 21,4% of Galaxolide, a synthetic "clean"/warm smelling note. Jean Claude Ellena is famous for maxing out the technical advantages of woody-musky ingredient Iso-E Super in his fragrances for structure and diffusion.

In the end structural analysis is for the professionals. The wearer can experience the fragrance linearly, circuitously or languidly; it ultimately depends on his/her sensitivity, perception, attention-span and education.

ref: Robert R. Calkin, Joseph Stephan Jellinek, Perfumery: Practices & Principles, 1994 John Wiley & Sons
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