Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Spring is sprung - my daily dose of green

Spring is finally on its way here in the UK. After a long and cold winter, the daffodils are in full bloom, my cherry tree is about to burst into blossom and the leaves of trees are just budding. Today I'm wearing two perfumes that conjure up for me the spirit (if not entirely the smell) of spring. They are Comme de Garcon Monocle Scent 2 Laurel and Parfumerie Generale's Papyrus de Ciane.

Now, spring scents are often described as green, the sort of green that brings to mind fresh, dewy buds, sappy growth and that fragrant verdancy so often associated with April. The two scents I'm wearing today are not green in this sense. Papyrus is quite mossy, while Laurel is more herbal and aromatic. Yet both invoke in me that sense of spring, of a restless breeze, warming gradually as it shifts from the south, heralding a change.

Monocle Scent 2 - Laurel
This opens with a green (not sappy) blast that immediately smells familiar to me. I can't quite place it, possibly a smell from my childhood. The bay and olive soon assert themselves and the feeling is of walking through a wood on a dry, warm spring day. There is a hint of warmth, but this is no humid, damp walk. The scent sweetens slightly but overall remains dry and vaguely dusty - I think this might be the combination of subtle incense and pepper. As it moves into the heart, the scent intensifies, but is slightly creamy, which might be the olive note. I am suddenly struck, all for about a minute, of a resemblance to Yatagan, but this soon passes. Perhaps I am being fanciful but the overall feel of this scent is to me like taking a walk in a wood in Croatia (where I've holidayed) comprising mostly bay trees. Heated by the midday sun, the oils are released and the air becomes mildly fragrant, but deep in the undergrowth, I don't feel hot, but comfortable. The fragrance then becomes fairly linear, retaining the bay note and olive creaminess, which perhaps accounts for that slightly soapy note others have mentioned in reviews. Into the dry down the spiciness has faded mostly but it retains a hint of an edge. I find Laurel to be quite a comforting scent. It isn't loud and wears quite close to the skin, but has good longevity. Laurel is perfectly unisex, although I suspect (and having read favourable reviews, mostly by men) it will find a stronger following by men. It isn't really a sexy scent, but a comforting, reassuring one. I find this to be impeccably composed - it is well constructed and tasteful. Kevin, at Now Smell this, has written a very good review here.

Papyrus De Ciane by Parfumerie Generale
There are some technically in-depth reviews of this fragrance, particularly of Pierre Guillaume's use of an old base called Mousse de Saxe. See here for Octavian's very good review of the history of Mousse de Saxe. Papyrus opens more obviously green than Laurel, with a sweeter accord that is both floral and mossy. I'm not sure, but I think I get Lily of the Valley and Violet, but if so, both are quite muted and not particularly feminine. As the top notes fade there is still an undercurrent of sweetness and a bit of soapiness. Into the heart and the scent also starts to become quite linear, but again, like Laurel it is comforting and herbal enough not to be cloying. Its not miles apart from Laurel at this point; sweeter, yes, and mossy, whereas Laurel is herbier and dry, but in essence, both crystallise in my mind the feel of spring, of being in woods, although in Papyrus' case, the woods are damper and mossier, while Laurel's woods are dry and warming up in the midday sun. In the dry down the scent settles into a green, mossy accord, quite happy, but not frivolous. I'm not quite sure how to describe the use of Mousse de Saxe. I suspect it is the first time I've encountered it in a fragrance. It does smell mossy, but not in the classic Chypre style one might associate with say, Chanel no 19.  It is not as distinct or strong and feels more like smelling moss that has dried out in the sun, but not in a dusty way; it still retains a certain humid feel to it. Like Laurel, I find Papyrus to be quite sophisticated and understated. I think Papyrus might be more popular with females, as the slight sweetness lends it less austerity than Laurel, but it can easily be worn by a man too.

In summary, I think both are intellectual, refined fragrances. They appear quite simple in construction, almost pared down, but on closer examination they reveal their true identity in layers, subtle, but evident. Both come highly recommended. I wouldn't necessarily wear either daily, but when I'm in the mood for some quiet spring contemplation, I could do worse than reach for these two.

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