I'm not quite sure about these 'best of' posts. Everyone has got in on the act this year, collaborations flying left, right and centre. So, in the spirit of the blogosphere, I'm jumping on the bandwagon too, with a slight difference. As I looked back at my posts this year and also at others', I quickly came to the realisation that I hadn't tried that many of the new releases of 2011, niche or otherwise.
I was slightly surprised at first, but after ruminating for a while, I realise that I've got past that compulsive phase of having to try every new release. Some of that is down to sheer economics and geography. My local stores don't stock that many niche lines, and in actual fact there are plenty of mainstream releases this year that haven't got to my neck of the woods. Secondly, I just don't have a wallet resilient and rich enough at present to buy a lot of perfume, including samples. Oh, I have my ways and means of sampling, and at this point, I just want to thank some of my fellow bloggers and perfume lovers out there who have generously sent me perfume this year. You know who you are and I appreciate the effort you have gone to! While on the subject, I also want to thank some of the ladies at my local department stores for giving so generously and I've enjoyed the perfume chats. Again, one fine lady knows who she is!
So, instead of listing my top 10 releases of 2011, I shall simply mention some of the perfumes I have tried in 2011, in no particular order or preference, and not necessarily of 2011 vintage.
Christian Dior Leather Oud - I fell in love with this raunchy fragrance and a good sign of its quality was that I probably wore it more than any other perfume this year.
Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour Le Soir - mmm, mmm, mmm. Sex in a bottle and while raunchy, sophisticated too. My favourite of his line by a proverbial mile.
Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminalle - the most beguiling and innovative take on tuberose I have encountered and possibly the most unisex one too, I might add.
Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore - a superior Jeux de Peau. Not exactly the same of course, and released many years before, but is an absolute stunner.
Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan - need I say more. An honourable musky mention goes to Kiehls Musk.
Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure - I've tried a lot of incense fragrances and love most of them, but this one is beautiful. Actually, most of what I've tried from SSS is great.
DSH Cuir et Champignon - a genius combination of notes. Leather and mushroom, seems almost obvious, but I haven't personally encountered anything else that smells like this beauty from Dawn. There's a lot of good stuff coming from DSH.
Puredistance M - suave, sensous smoky leather. A beautiful creation by Roja Dove. I know I have mentioned Puredistance a lot on this blog and no, I am not in their pocket, but this is a genuinely good perfume.
L'Artisan Al Oudh - this line takes a bit of flack on the boards, but personally I like a lot from L'Artisan. Al Oudh is a complex and challenging perfume, but I love it.
L'Artisan Fou D'Absinthe - I teeter between loving and hating this one, but it is interesting to say the least.
Bottega Veneta - this has been mentioned all over the shop and yes, it is very good. More of this sort next year, please.
Guerlain L'Instant Pour Homme - I own a bottle and it is one of the best men's mainstream perfumes out there, in my humble opinion of course.
So, I could prattle on and on and part of me wants to. However, for the sake of sanity, I shall stop here. Is there a perfumer of the year, or a favourite of mine? I'm tempted to say Bertrand Duchaufour. I know he is like a fungus, everywhere at present, but I have to say there is very little of his that I don't like, which speaks volumes for his skill.
Finally, I just want to thank all the bloggers out there that give me inspiration. I could not possibly single out any, but look at my blog roll and you will get an idea. In recent months I've detected a bit of negativity among some bloggers, people moaning about nasty comments made, etc. I can't say I've encountered any of this personally, but as a wish for 2012, let us all remain friends and always put our love of perfume at the forefront, not our egos or personalities.
For what it is worth, I forgot to mention that I did wear some perfume on Christmas day. It took me a while to work out what I felt like wearing. In the end I went for Amouage's Tribute Attar. To my mind it suited the day and mood perfectly. It is smoky, incense-y and rosy, with a slightly animalic edge just beneath the surface. What astounding intensity it has too. One or two smears with a wand lasts a good eight hours!
There were two things I disliked about this Christmas. The commercial lead-up to the day and the commercial aftermath the day after. Yes, I know this is the real world, and commerce is the big daddy, blah blah blah, but I am sick to death of pre-Christmas sales, post Christmas sales, sales, sales and more sales. I'm not thick. There might be bargains to be had, but how about a few days where we stay at home and actual enjoy the things we do happen to own already. And while we're at it, how about enjoying the people we live and love with too?
Rant sort of over, we had a lovely Christmas. There were a lot of presents involved, bought with money, in a commercial way of course, but it was a day where we simply sat at home, enjoyed the time with each other and ate good food. After returning from the Christmas service, my wife and I cracked open a bottle of champagne and ate smoked salmon with black pepper and lemon juice. Later we cooked a large rib of beef, with port and stilton gravy. It was kind of inspired by Nigella and it worked very well indeed. And the kids ate it too, which is always a bonus! Dessert was a much simpler affair - no Christmas pud, but rather jelly and custard. The kids loved it and we amped it up somewhat by having some Panettone as well.
Santa treated me rather well this year. I received two perfume-related books. One was Roja Dove's The Essence of Perfume and the other was Perfume, The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Suskind. I also received the updated version of Bob Dylan No Direction Home, by Robert Shelton. Music and perfume, my two great loves - I couldn't be happier! My wife also knitted me a wonderful jumper (no Christmas reindeer, I promise).
On Christmas eve we spent about 4 hours putting together a bloody Playmobile hospital clinic for the kids. The box said it would take two hours. Bloody liars.... We got to bed at about 1.30 am, exhausted and emotional wrecks.
So, Christmas is over, but we enjoyed it. I hope everyone who is reading this enjoyed it too, and most importantly, spent the day with people they love, need and who in turn, love and needed them too.
Here's wishing all my fellow blogger friends and perfume lovers a wonderful Christmas. Whatever you do, I hope its time spent with the people you love and care about, and if it includes some good-quality perfume as well, then all the better!
In the interest of mundaneness, I thought I would let you know how my Christmas party went. As far as these events go, it was a moderate success. I only got moderately inebriated and managed to leave with my dignity intact. I often find office parties surreal. Perhaps it is because I work with these people day-in-day-out that it is strange to see them let their hair down and become sort of normal people, as normal as people can be at an event as contrived as office events tend to be.
Oh by the way, if you were interested, the perfume I wore to the event is Mona Di Orio's Cuir. It's a hard core leather on my skin and teeters between compulsive and repulsive. Typically, it is one of those perfumes that takes time to appreciate.
Those of you who have read my blog for more than a year may recall my aversion to office parties. I've been to a few in my time and while some have been good, I've found that the larger the party, the less enjoyable it is. Now, this might be down to my character - I'm the sort of person who prefers more intimate dinners and get togthers.
Anyway, today is our Christmas party and it remains to be seen how it turns out. To help soften the blow, I am going to have to select a perfume to comfort, provide confidence and a sense of joie de vie.
To write about Mitsouko with any degree of authority is pointless. So I'll cut to the chase and state that while I have tried the EDT (presumably the most recent formulation) on numerous occasions, I haven't tried any others. I like the EDT and have always found it very unisex actually.
Recently Cymbaline sent me a sample of a vintage formulation. I'm not sure which, but wearing it for the first time today I am struck by how strikingly different it is to the EDT. The EDT is dry, almost dusty, with the faintest hint of peaches. The version I'm wearing today opens with a fat, rich peach and rose note. It is bigger, bolder, richer and more feminine than the EDT. I'd liken the affect to be like full fat milk versus semi-skimmed.
As the vintage perfume develops, it starts to reveal characteristics in common with the EDT, but has a more old-style feel of oakmoss and is never as dry, and more sweet than the EDT.
I can see both having their place, on my skin. The EDT is definitely more man-friendly, but the vintage version I have is more voluptuous and complex. Fascinating....
My third perfume curiosity is an oddity I only smelled today for the first time. It shot to the top of the oddity charts, at least in my book, because it smells like soap. The most realistic soapy note I've smelled in perfume.
I'm talking about Stephen Jones by Comme des Garcons. The soap is Dove. Yes. I can't do this perfume justice by writing about it in detail after one wearing, but when I first sprayed it on I was flabbergasted. Ostensibly this turns out to be a fresh, green floral, I suppose, with some incense. But it isn't fresh really, and it has some serious lasting power I might add.
I've seen others do it, so today I decided I would do it too. Yes, a list of what I am currently enjoying....
Cymbaline recently very kindly sent me some lovely perfume samples. I haven't tried most of them yet, but two that have given me cause to celebrate are Ormonde Jayne's Ormonde Woman and 1000 Flowers Reglisse Noir. Ormonde Woman is a stunner and as unisex as they come. Reglisse Noir is fascinating. I've never smelled anything like it.
Got my eye on:
L'Artisan minis of Timbuktu, Coeur De Vetiver Sacre and Fou D'Absinthe. Currently marked down to about £45 at Fenwicks, but I'm hoping they'll drop further after Christmas, if any are still in stock. The ladies set includes Nuit De Tuberose and part of me wishes I could include that too.
Thinking of ordering some Neil Morris samples - I've wanted to try his stuff for some time
Candles - I'm suddenly obsessed with candles, but they cost a bomb. Wouldn't mind treating myself to a Carriere Freres or a Cire Trudon
It's bizarre, but I'm reading the first in the Twilight series and am strangely enjoying it. I was told this is chick lit, and maybe it is, but still, I like it, so wah.
Just finished reading Donna Tartt's The Secret History for the second time. It's ten years since I last read it and it is as compelling today as it was previously. A magnificent work of fiction.
Got my eye on:
a number of perfume-related books, including Roja Dove, Michael Edwards and Chandler Burr
No Direction Home Life and Music of Bob Dylan by Robert Shelton
Nigella - any of her books (call me a sucker for sexy Jewish women with er, large bossoms! say no more....)
I could list loads here. Over the last 12 months I have got massively back into music.
Recently I've listened a lot to Laura Marling, Bob Dylan, Fleet Foxes, The Band, The Black Keys, Mavis Staples, Nina Simone, Devendra Banhart, Calexico, Florence & The Machine, Jonathan Wilson, Bon Iver, Joni Mitchell, Josh T Pearson, The Kinks, Ron Sexsmith and The Stone Roses, to name a few
I've got my eye on everything. The only downside with having an Ipod that can store almost a lifetime of music is that it is so much more difficult to listen to whole albums with the passion and intensity that I used to back when I was a teenager.
TV, DVDS, etc
A bit late, I know, but recently I've got into Mad Men in a big way. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I recently loved the latest series of Masterchef The Professionals. It's the one TV reality show that I actually enjoy. X Factor sucks in a big way these days.
I've got my eye on The Wire. I've only read good things about this series.
For Christmas I've ordered myself The Beatles Anthology DVDs. I can see myself wasting a good few hours of my life watching this!
So that's it for now. I could list a lot more stuff, I'm sure.
I got round to sampling no 5 in Six Scents Series 1. Labelled 'Illicit Sex', in all honestly it doesn't remind me of sex at all, illicit or otherwise, but even so, it is one of those perfumes I would call 'odd'.
A few months ago I wrote about the first in series 1, no 1, here. It smelled like candied pineapple to me! No 5 is perhaps not quite as strange, but I also found it less interesting too. Boiling it down to basics, it is a peppery incense fragrance, but having said that, it didn't really smell that peppery or incense-like to me. It did smell quite synthetic, in a style that I could see Comme des Garcons doing. I was going to try describe what no 5 smells like, but honestly, I don't know if I really can.
When searching for reviews, I came across a particularly scathing review of this by PereDePierre, here, if you're interested in reading another take on it. For me, I thought it was different enough to write about, but am not sure if it is something I would wear regularly. I prefer the pineapple!
Ok, so one person's meat is another's poison. I guess the title of this post is just setting myself up to fail, perhaps.
Today I wore Bond No 9's Signature for Men. I've worn it before, but for the life of me couldn't remember what it smelled like. Wearing it today, I'm struck by how odd it is. I haven't tried many in the Bond line, to be fair, but Signature just smells... strange. Reading a few reviews, it seems like it is meant to contain an oud note, but frankly it takes a lot of imagination to actually detect it. Perhaps in the very late dry down I detect an accord that sort of hints at that found in, say, M7, but only just.
The thing that has me most baffled about Signature for Men is that I don't dislike it. Strangely, it smells quite good. It is a very synthetic creation, but not generically synthetic. So there you have it. I wouldn't buy a bottle, but sampling it is certainly no burden.
This weekend we stayed over with our closest friends at their flat in Limehouse, which is adjacent to Canary Wharf in London. It was with great sadness that they told us they are leaving the UK in April next year, after spending ten years here. After much thought, they feel that they aren't happy here any longer and are returning to Melbourne in Australia. For us it is a blow, of course, as we are very close and have spent a lot of happy times together here in England. However, we want them to be truly happy and I hope this move home will be good for them.
On Sunday we all met up with some other friends of ours, formerly from London but now living in Bonn, Germany. They had a little baby girl a few months ago and it was great to see them all. We visited a German Christmas market on the South Bank and generally had a good time, despite the dreary grey weather.
I didn't wear a lot of perfume this weekend, but somehow it felt appropriate not to. When I don't feel especially happy I also don't feel like wearing perfume...
I've had a soft spot for Mona Di Orio's perfumes for a long time. I wouldn't say they are easy to appreciate at first. Challenging and slightly offbeat are words that come to mind, but irrespective of taste, I don't think I could ever argue that they aren't interesting and ultimately, they reward the perfume lover who looks beyond the easy hook. Which possibly reflects the character behind the perfumes. Sadly, Mona won't be around to continue that legacy and passion directly, although I do hope her perfumes continue to be enjoyed and appreciated and here's wishing her spirit lives on in her wonderful perfumes.
I know this is getting boring, but today wherever I walked in town I saw further evidence of a mad desperation to sell merchandise at a discount in the run up to Christmas. Without wishing to come across as a scaremonger, I really do feel that we are living in desperate times. I truly have not felt this sensation quite so vividly before.
Onto happier themes, my perfume today was M, by Puredistance. I'm not going to elaborate, save to say that on a cold, blustery day, as autumn slips away to winter, M wears smooth, sophisticated and beguilingly. It's a brilliant perfume.
I can't help but notice how each year the sales start earlier than before. Traditionally, we used to get the New Year sales, then they started on Boxing Day and then last year I noticed sales in the fortnight leading up to Christmas.
This year lots of retailers, particularly online ones, started all sorts of sales in November and to be honest, thinking about it now there have been sales on during almost every month I can think of. This is clearly indicative of the dire state of the UK and EU economies and for all I know it might be just as bad in the US and other parts of the world. I find it quite depressing really. While I know these retailers are simply trying to move merchandise and kick start their stalling financial results, I'm not convinced it does anything other than paper over the all-to-obvious cracks in our economy.
Well, this has absolutely nothing to do with perfume really. Interestingly, a lady I work with emailed us all with vouchers from The Body Shop offering 50% off all their stock before lunchtime, or something to that affect. It boggles the mind, while for the last two weeks Amazon has been going crazy over Black Friday, Cyber Monday and God knows what other days that deserve some faintly disturbing-yet-catchy name.
I'm waiting for some samples to arrive from a generous friend, but while I wait, I'm wearing perfumes I've worn before. Today I tried an interesting layering combination of Ambre Precieux and Leather Oud. I thought the animalic take by Dior might work interestingly with MPG's softer, powdery amber. Sadly Leather Oud (and I only lightly touched it to my wrist) overpowered everything and it didn't quite work. Generally I'm still not convinced by Ambre Precieux. I find it a little too sweet and powdery for my tastes, although I know it has its ardent fans, which is great.
Well, I'm off to watch Celebrity Masterchef now, sad being that I am!
I mentioned yesterday that we were going shopping for Christmas presents. So we set off at sparrow fart for Bluewater, which is a very large shopping centre/mall in North Kent. For those of you not familiar with the UK, and Kent for that matter, Bluewater is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, stranded between major motorways such as the M2, with a 'tantalising' view of the Queen Elizabeth bridge, otherwise known as the Dartford crossing (over the Thames river). I stand corrected, but I think Bluewater is built in a hole (a very large one mind you) that was once a quarry, and is shaped like a triangle, with a major department store at each corner (House of Fraser, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer).
Anyway, enough about the history and geography of Dartford and north Kent. The shopping itself turned out to be less tortuous than I had feared. We got there early and managed to escape before the real crowds arrived at lunchtime. And we managed to come away with real presents! Yay!
While I was trying to find a loo in John Lewis I passed the Kiehl's counter and decided to try Kiehl's Musk. (Original Musk). I've tried this one a few times before and have come to the conclusion that it is the second best thing to Muscs Koublai Khan, which is no mean feat. While it is not as overtly animalic and complex as MKK, it does have a bit of skank, at least on my skin. It is possibly more floral and less dry than MKK, but in my opinion definitely shares the same gene pool, perfume-wise.
Basenotes list the notes as bergamot, nectar (what?!), orange blossom, neroli, ylang-ylang, rose, lily, tonka, white patchouli and musk. I must confess that on my skin I don't detect a lot of these notes, individually, especially the orange blossom and neroli. Musk is definitely the dominant note, from start to finish.
At £45 a bottle, I am sorely tempted to buy a bottle of Kiehl's Musk. I think it is a very good perfume indeed and very reasonably priced.
I know its December when I get my first cold of the winter. I woke up this morning with a tight chest and a slightly sore throat. I hope it doesn't develop into something more serious. I hate to talk about health, but since I had pleurisy last year my chest has never been quite the same and I tend to get chest infections a lot easier than I used to. This coming from someone who for about ten years between 1996 and 2006 could count the number of colds he had on one hand!
Anyway, so far my sense of smell hasn't been affected so I happily wore L'Artisan's Al Oudh today. I know this one tends to divide opinion. I personally love it and as someone who likes cumin, I have no issues with Al Oudh at all. It is a deep and complex perfume that felt just right for today.
Tomorrow we are off to start doing some Christmas shopping. Wish me luck!
So, it's the first of December already. I can't believe how quickly this year has flown by. Sometimes I wish I could hit that pause button on the remote control of life and just slow things down!
Today I wore Bois Blond by Parfumerie Generale. Luckyscent lists notes of cereals, grass, galbanum, cedar, hay, blond tobacco, musk and amber. Bois Blond is instantly recognisable as a PG creation. For example, if you have tried Coze or Aomassai, you will recognise that Bois Blond is part of the same family, albeit a toned down, slightly less gourmand version.
Bois Blond really does live up to its name. It is woody, grassy and hay-like, infused with slightly sweeter musk and tobacco notes. It really is a very good fragrance, but for some reason I don't feel particularly inspired or moved by it. I can't deny that it is well done nevertheless and it could just be my own tastes that lead to me reaching this conclusion.
At the beginning of this year (March) I was contacted by Puredistance, who offered me a sample of their more masculine offering, M, to review. After my review I posted a link to it, and went on with life. See here for the original review.
Recently Puredistance contacted me again and asked for permission to have my article published in a book that they are making available as a PDF on their website. I was slightly taken aback, albeit safe in the knowledge that this is a marketing tool of sorts, not down to the sheer brilliance of my writing!
Now, I want to assure you that I am not writing this to brag, but to provide an example of how perfume companies can use the internet, blogs and electronic media to their advantage, but also to the consumer's.
There are a couple of tuberose perfumes I've discovered recently that work quite well for me, namely L'Artisan's Nuit de Tuberose and Serge Luten's Tubereuse Criminelle.
However, today I encountered tuberose in its worst and deadliest form - worn by a woman with abandon. I work with this woman, sweet lady that she is, but she has no idea. She sprays on tuberose (and I don't know what perfume it is, I'm too afraid to ask) like others use Bodymist and leaves a trail from Kent to Katmandu. Even worse, try sitting right next to her for two hours in an over-heated room, in the most boring meeting ever invented by that twit, The Grey Accountant.
Hmm, you get my drift, I'm sure. If I had the money, I'd buy her bottles of the L'Artisan and Lutens...
Today I sampled DSH's Gingembre and Cardamom & Kyphi. Both of these strike me as quite simple constructions, but not inferior.
Gingembre I like because it doesn't conjure up foodie associations for me. While it smells like ginger, it isn't too sweet and confectionery-like, nor too zesty-zingy. Once the ginger fades, it smells to me like a mild amber. Nice.
Cardamom & Kyphi is a little strange. It has a very realistic cardamom opening note, but once that fades it smells almost waxy to me. I still think I like it though. It is different enough that I haven't smelled anything else quite like it.
This past week was ever so slightly unusual for me in that I did not try anything new. Instead I wore some of my older favourites, which, thinking about it, is no bad thing.
What amazes me about these perfumes (why does it amaze me, it makes obvious sense really) is that each time I wear them, the memories and associations they evoke come flooding back and I always get that sense of "mmm, now I know why I love this so much".
Starting with Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, I realise that to me it is still my amber gold standard. What I like so much about Ambre Sultan is that it is complex and smells of more than amber, although amber is the star note. It never turns powdery on me, remaining fairly dry and herbal, and I love that. Like almost all Lutens I can think of, Ambre Sultan lasts and lasts - apply it at 8 in the morning and you will still smell it clearly at bedtime, and faintly the morning after.
On to L'air du Desert Marocain and I can't help but marvel how Andy Tauer manages to create perfumes so powerful and long lasting. A word of warning - if you encounter a Tauer you don't like, watch out, because you will still be smelling it the morning after. His perfumes have stellar lasting power. Even so, this is a wonderful perfume, full of complexities.
Finally, Guerlain's L'Instant for Men. I own a bottle of this and every time I wear it, I know I can justify this purchase. If you want to know what a quality, mainstream men's fragrance smells like, try this. L'Instant seems to get overlooked - I hardly ever read about it. I think it is wonderful.
It's Saturday, I don't have to work, or meet anyone, or pretend to be Mr-Grey-Accountant-I-am-a-cedar-and-icky-synthetic-amber-Man (not that I do anyway), so today I pulled out my samples of Amouage and decided to wear Gold (for da Laydees) and Ubar.
Gold is good and powerful. Like a lot of the earlier Amouage fragrances, it isn't for the faint hearted. Described as a floral oriental, to me it may start quite floral and pushy, but dries down to a quality and sophisticated blend of sandalwood and incense, albeit still quite floral. I've seen this one described often as 'old lady like' and while I can sort of see why (I was surprised that this was released in 1983, according to Basenotes. Can this really be, or is Gold in the 21st century a reinterpretation of the original, bearing in mind likely reformulations anyway?) I don't personally think it smells that dated but irrespective, lets put it this way - this is no fruity floral circa 2011, thankfully.
As for Ubar, I think I actually prefer it to Gold. It is slightly sweeter, with a stronger green note, with Lily of the Valley. After this, a prominent rose note comes to the fore, not miles removed from the Lyric Note, but yet not the same either. The dry down is rich, with a hint of animalic, and still fairly sweet, but not cloying. The listed notes include civet and vanilla. A perusal of the top and base notes, including civet, vanilla, bergamot and lemon could lead one to think this might bear a resemblance to Shalimar, but actually it turns out to be a very different beast indeed.
As a man, while I find these fairly feminine, I didn't feel uncomfortable wearing them, but having said that, the grey accountant in me couldn't really see myself wearing this to a board meeting!
Not having worn Portrait of a Lady for a good few months, wearing it today brought home the truth that this is one rose fragrance by Frederic Malle that I just don't quite get, or appreciate. I know it has its fans, but I find it a bit harsh, hinting at a synthetic clumsiness that depresses me.
I know, I know. That seems grouchy, and probably unfair, but give me the superior, earlier Une Rose by Edouard Flechier any day.
This is the way to start the week, with a knockout from Uncle Serge. I haven't worn MKK for some time now, but wearing it again today reminded me why this one is so good. Musk for the musk lover, in my opinion.
It's not particularly appropriate I think for a chilly, slightly foggy November day, but Colonia Assoluta does at least remind me of warmer days.
Like many of the perfumes in the Acqua di Parma line, Assoluta to me is basically a citrus cologne, albeit a very well done one. Liberty lists the notes as bitter orange, bergamot, verbena, cardamom, pink peppercorns, paprika, jasmine, rose, cedar, amber and patchouli. To me it is nowhere near as complex as the notes might suggest, but I do like it. It has slightly less than average lasting power on my skin, but as it is a cologne, I wouldn't have expected much more.
I've mentioned Sonoma Scent Studio in previous posts, but not for some time now. The samples that I've got lend themselves best to the cooler months, I think, with the exception of Incense Pure, which I could wear all year round.
I've written about a few in the line before. For example, my thoughts on Wood Violet, Tabac Aurea, Sienna Musk and Incense Pure can be found here, while Winter Woods, Ambre Noir and Fireside Intense are here.
I don't aim to rehash my thoughts again, except to state that with time Tabac Aurea has definitely grown on me. Strangely, I now detect its tobacco note quite clearly and find it such a comforting, yummy scent. While none of these is foody per se, they all smell delicious. I can't quite explain it.
Another thing that strikes me about Sonoma Scent Studio in general is how reasonably priced their products are and also how easy it is to purchase from their website. I also love how they offer so many different sizes. This is so refreshing compared to better known perfumeries that offer one size - 100ml or nothing. I hate that.
If you haven't tried anything from this lovely perfume house, I would urge you to do so. I'm confident you will find at least one perfume in their line that will wow you.
Iris Silver Mist is another one of those exclusive, non-export Lutens perfumes one always reads about. It has gained almost mythical status in perfume and I had been longing to try it for a number of years.
The notes include iris, clover, cedar, sandalwood, vetiver, white amber, benzoin, labdanum, musks and incense. What strikes me about Iris Silver Mist is how un-Lutens like it is. If you are expecting a rich, oriental spice fest (not that you would with iris I would guess) you would be mistaken. That's not to say it isn't surprising. It opens with a raw, vegetal, rooty, carrot-like odour that is quite unusual. At one point (and bear in mind I am dabbing, not spraying) it smells like vodka, or at least some raw spirit distilled from potatoes or another root vegetable.
After the strong opening Iris Silver Mist softens considerably. It isn't powdery exactly, but it does become soft, silky, almost like a sheer veil scented with violets and powder. There are a lot of notes listed that I don't readily identify, but I don't want to over-complicate it. Essentially Iris Silver Mist is a compelling Iris perfume that certainly stands out.
Is it one of my favourite Lutens? No, not really. I like it, but don't feel like I'm falling in love. I'd happily wear it, but I do prefer others in the line, but I do know that it has its acolytes, and rightly so. I do like encountering Lutens perfumes that avoid what has become known, somewhat cliched now, as that Lutens oriental accord. Like Tubereuse Criminelle for example, it really pushes the boat out by taking a note and presenting it in a way I haven't smelled before.
I have a friend at a department store in Tunbridge Wells. She shall remain nameless for the purpose of this post, but some of you who have followed my blog for some time might be aware that she has been very generous in supplying me with many samples. In turn, I have tried to return the favour a little by giving her various samples to try from my collection, many of which are not readily available at most stores.
Over time we've swopped perfume and other stories and enjoyed a bit of a natter at lunchtimes. Anyway, last week she gave me a whole lot of Amouage samples, including Gold, Dia, Ubar, Jubilation, Lyric, Epic and Reflection. I've tried many of these before, but I am always grateful to get my hands on more, for I am a Amouage fan, again as some of you will know.
Today I am wearing Dia for Men, a perfume I never grow tired of. I've reviewed it before, here, but suffice to state that it smells gentlemanly (in a good way) but by no means boring, sophisticated and frankly, just damn good.
So, to my perfume friend, thank you and here's to more perfume patter!
Uh oh, its happened again. I've tried another perfume in this line that just does not do it for me. What can I say about Black March? It smells ok, for the 5 minutes that I can detect it on my skin. Another oil based perfume from CB I Hate Perfume, it has that curiously muted and flat feel that both Musk Reinvention and Burning Leaves had too.
Black March smells slightly green, slightly cold, slightly fresh. If it had just some oomph, it might have had promise. Instead it leaves me feeling powerfully underwhelmed.
I honestly have no vendetta again this line. In fact, after reading terrific reviews of these very perfumes I'm left wondering what it is that other people are getting that I'm not.
Please, if you have tried any of these, I'd welcome your feedback on how they perform on your skin. For me, its pass, pass, pass.
I was in London again this past Monday. Its weird in a way, because 3 months went by without a visit to the Capital, and all of a sudden I've been there 3 times in almost as many weeks.
I had a client meeting in the City of London, in a room overlooking the massive domed roof of St Paul's Cathedral. If that isn't inspiring, then I don't know what is. Less inspiring is what has been going on outside St Paul's (and inside, but that's another matter). My American colleagues are probably not up to speed on this, but for the last few weeks, protestors have been camping outside the Portico of the church, ostensibly under the banner of Occupy London, a group/organisation/whatever that is against capitalism, primarily bankers and banking institutions. Presumably this extends to the clergy and officials of the Church of England. I don't know - I'm total apolitical, so generally don't get into this sort of thing. I only mention it because I've seen it all over the news the past couple of weeks and it was strange to then walk past the scene myself.
On my way to a training course in the afternoon, I passed Liberty and had to pop in for a while to see what was on offer. I saw some interesting perfumes. I sampled Le Labo's Poivre 23 and Santal 33, both of which are very interesting, but I preferred Santal 33. Poivre 23 reminds me, mainly in the dry down, of a more peppery Patchouli 24. Santal 33 is compelling. I can't say why, but it just grabbed me for some reason. I'm not even sure that it smells so much of Sandalwood, but it smells good anyway.
I also sprayed numerous perfumes on scent strips, including the new Blood Concepts (O, A, B and AB). I don't know what it is about these, but they strike me as being very much like something Comme de Garcons would try release. They have that sort of vibe, in my opinion.
I also looked at some of the Prada exclusive collection, such as Cuir Amber, Oppoponax and Benzoin. They smell decent, but I'm not sure I would pay those prices for what are essentially quite straightforward single-note perfumes, no matter what the quality. Not easy to test on a strip either once the bottles are quite empty, as there is no applicator; the bottles look like apothecary bottles.
I ended the day having dinner with two old friends and it was good to catch up, but they are going through quite a tough time in their lives, not relationship wise though. I hope they come out well the other end in time...
Christian Dior's Leather Oud. To me its an indicator of quality when I keep on returning to a fragrance. Leather Oud just smells great. Smoothly animalic, warm, slightly leathery. Almost rosy in a way. While oud is present, this is by no means to me an oud-centric perfume. You little beauty!
I'm a little late in getting round to trying Juniper Sling, and really, only weeks away from winter, this strikes me as far more appropriate for summer.
Anyway, the notes from Penhaligons include cinnamon, orange brandy, angelica, juniper berry, cardamom, leather, black pepper, orris wood, brown sugar, black cherry, vetiver and ambrox.
To be honest, I think this is a very well done perfume, understated, chic, yet just enough to keep it interesting. Having said that, half (or more than half) these notes do not register to me at all. My listing would be gin, citrus, black and pink pepper, vetiver, cedar and musk, with perhaps a hint of suede leather. Forget cherries, sugar and orange brandy, in my opinion, and certainly on my skin.
If I were to compare it to another perfume, I would mention Ormonde Jayne's Isfarkand. It has that vibe about it, which again, is no bad thing at all.
Juniper Sling is quite possibly (actually it is) my favourite perfume from Penhaligons. Well worth seeking out.
I've been going through quite a few samples recently, following my purchases from The Perfumed Court (finally) and my visit to Les Senteurs in London.
I thought I would summarise my experiences of these. Some I have written about in detail, others hardly touched upon at all. As some of you who read this blog know, I went on a bit of a Lutens bender in October, sampling some non-exports such as Iris Silver Mist, Encens et Lavande, Tubereuse Criminelle, Santal De Mysore, Rose De Nuit and Boxeuse. Of these, the two that really stood out for me were Santal De Mysore and Tubereuse Criminelle. Not that the others weren't good, although Boxeuse was my least favourite and the most humdrum of the lot, for me anyway.
I've also tried Jules by Christian Dior and an oud by Ajmal called Dahn Oudh Al Shams. Even I am getting sick of the whole oud thing, not that Ajmal is a newbie niche line getting in on the oud bandwagon. Damn oud indeed...
I dabbled with Ungaro I, II and III. I and II impressed, III not so much. Not surprising then that III is the only one still in production.
On to the CB I Hate Perfumes. I don't want to say much here. So far, not impressed at all, but I will revisit these and see if I form a different opinion down the line.
Francis Kurkdjian beckoned, so I ordered all the perfumes in the line. I haven't written about them yet, but suffice to say that Cologne Pour le Soir was my favourite, which drums home the fact that I still need to pluck up the courage to buy a bottle of the Absolue, which is my absolute favourite.
On to the Les Senteurs stuff. I've tried a couple of ELDOs, Tom of Finland and Like This. Both were really nice and different to some of the others I've tried in the line. I was underwhelmed by Amber Precieux in as much as it reminded me strongly of Montale's Blue Amber at times, but I suspect I need to try it more, because I think there is a lot more to it. At the risk of making snap judgments, I did not take to Andy Tauer's Pentachords Auburn. Yuck, yuck, yuck. It smells like a synthetic musk-in-the-laundry-gone-wrong mess. Sorry. Oh yes, and Bois Blond by Parfumerie Generale. Hmm, not bad. Not sure if I'm falling in love, but decent.
So, we are now in November and last night my kids went trick-or-treating as Halloween brought October to a close. I'm looking forward to November. I feel like my perfume writing has picked up again and as my busy period at work draws to a close I feel almost renewed.
I'll leave you with a picture from last night! .....
I don't know what it is like in north America, Europe or anywhere else for that matter, but here in the UK the countdown to Christmas appears well underway. Marks and Spencer is already stocking mince pies and the department stores have been taken over by Christmas decorations, whisky bottles and fancy chocolates. Never mind that it isn't even Halloween yet.
Something I've noticed since becoming more interested in perfume is that Acqua di Parma always seems to step up its presence and advertising in the run up to Christmas. Perhaps it is just more noticeable, but I don't really notice them any other time of year. The strange thing for me is that I don't think that any of the perfumes in Acqua di Parma's range is really suited to the colder winter months, especially Christmas, when I think of roaring fires, spicy puddings, rich meals, cosying up in snug clothes sipping warmed alcoholic drinks and all that cliched stuff. I mean, most of the perfumes in the range, for men at least, are essentially citrus colognes, albeit very well done ones, while in the ladies range you have powdery florals of iris and magnolia. Hardly the stuff of winter, I think.
Maybe that's not the point. After all, a lot of people, especially when buying gifts for others, might not necessarily think of what perfumes are suited to a season, particularly if they only buy perfume once a year. I'm not intending to come across snobbish. People are welcome to do what they want to. It's just that I'm surprised that Acqua di Parma is associated with Christmas time in my mind.
As a general question, although it's obviously a matter of personal choice, do you have any perfume in mind that reminds you especially of the Christmas season?
Fans of CH I Hate Perfume are probably going to hate me for saying this, but I find Musk Reinvention underwhelming. I think it is better than Burning Leaves, and has more presence, which is a good thing. As with Burning Leaves, I have the absolute, which is in oil format and is quite slow to warm up on skin and release its aroma. I still find it somewhat curiously muted and one dimensional.
As far as musks go, I can't quite get my head around Musk Reinvention. Its not a skin musk in the sense of being a sexy, warm scent. Likewise it isn't a white/laundry musk by any means. Its not skanky/animalic either, despite having read a few reviews that describe it thus. Not on my skin anyway.
If anything, Musk Reinvention reminds me of a much weaker, less potent version of a Middle-Eastern musk oil I have tried, which is more spicy/floral than the Westernised idea of a musk. Having said that, I still don't find it particularly compelling or interesting and was hoping for so much more after having read a lot of very positive reviews.
Musk Reinvention is not a poor perfume by any means, but it just isn't for me. I just don't know what all the fuss is about.
I have one word to sum up CB I Hate Perfume's Burning Leaves - disappointing. I'm sorry, but that is honestly what I feel. I've been trying this one over the last few days and I have an analogy for it. I picture a lovely jelly, all taut and quivering as it comes out the fridge. That is the first ten to fifteen minutes of Burning Leaves, when it smells smoky, yet quite sweet. However after being left for a little while at room temperature, the jelly softens at the edges and turns to an aqueous blob. This is Burning Leaves once the initial opening fades.
I know this sounds harsh and perhaps it's something to do with the fact that I'm sampling the oil-based perfumes in the line. I find oil based perfumes very often quite muted and dull. Burning Leaves, when first applied, hardly smells of anything at all. After a couple of minutes the smell of smoke gradually appears as the oil warms up on skin, but it never gets beyond this. After about an hour or two, this fragrance has almost faded on my skin.
I have another feeling about Burning Leaves, and I'll probably be shot for this by fans of the CB line, but I don't really think this perfume smells that realistically of burning leaves, quite frankly. The part of it I do smell for half an hour reminds me a bit of Winter Woods and Fireside Intense by Sonoma Scent Studio. I have often smelled burning leaves and other vegetal matter, on bonfires, at garden allotments and so forth and to me the realistic smell is both attractive and repulsive. Close up, the sugars in leaves burn, creating an intense caramelised smell, mixed with acrid, sweet smoke. It's a very unique and evocative smell. To me Burning Leaves never quite captures that accord.
I feel I am being a bit unfair here. Burning Leaves doesn't smell bad, by any means, but I do fault it for its brevity, and for a perfume that is purported to mimic the realism of a smell, I don't personally think it quite achieves that.
I had to be in the City of London this morning for work. I wasn't sure how long it was going to take, but in the end I finished what I had to do and instead of heading straight back to Tunbridge Wells, I decided to call in on my previous colleagues, who are based close to Victoria Station. I haven't seen them since I left the job, more than three and a half years ago, so it was great to see them all again. I never left under strained circumstances, so there is no baggage here, which made it much easier and nicer. I think they were surprised to see me, as I arrived unannounced. Although I have moved on a lot in the three years or so, I found myself feeling slightly emotional seeing them and the office again and we had a good chuckle as we relived some good times. Although to outsiders these things would appear mundane, such as some of the Christmas lunches we had, who went on the coffee run and who of our ex colleagues were the most boring, etc, it was fun to reflect on past times. I felt a bit sad as I left - I've moved on to a different life, but they are all still working in the same place, doing the same thing...
Seeing as I was but a stone's throw away, I decided to also pop into Les Senteurs on Elizabeth Street. Recently I wrote about how I was disappointed at how much their samples have increased in price, but I'm glad to say that they are just as happy to provide you with free samples if you do drop by. I managed to get samples of Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier's Ambre Precieux, ELDO's Like This and Tom of Finland, Andy Tauer's Pentachords Auburn and Parfumerie Generale's Bois Blond.
There was a lot more I would have liked to take with me, but one doesn't want to take advantage too much. I saw the new Mona di Orio Oud and, interestingly, some car fragrances from Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, which are wonderfully packaged and I thought were simply new perfumes until I was informed otherwise.
I should start by stating that as much as I like Tuberose as a note (in a way), I find it very difficult to wear a lot of tuberose-heavy perfumes, especially those that emphasise its heady, fleshy, tropical, vamp-like qualities. I know its meant to be the age of genderlessness in perfume, but even today, for a man wearing something like that in public, particularly in an office environment, could be disastrous, to say the least.
I came to Nuit De Tuberose quite late, only first trying it a good six months after it was released, and since then I have tried it occasionally. However since L'Artisan was stocked locally in my town, I've worn it more often and am rapidly learning to appreciate this cerebral take on tuberose. I interprete Nuit De Tuberose as a hologram, or even negative, of tuberose. I suppose what I mean is that when I smell Nuit De Tuberose, my senses tell me that tuberose as a note is there, but in some way it is represented inversely. It's almost as if tuberose has been deconstructed, some parts stripped away (its more obviously fleshy and tropical/coconut/creamy attributes) and then put back together again to reveal something altogether more mysterious and lean, yet still tuberose. So taking the imagery of a negative, I can still see the picture of the subject matter, provided I concentrate and squint and 'hold it up to the light', but it is other-worldly.
The notes for Nuit De Tuberose include pink berries, cardamom, clove, pepper, tuberose, orange blossom, ylang ylang, rose, mango, angelica, sandalwood, pallisander, musk, benzoin and styrax. This is where I am coming from with my negative analogy - the notes tell me that this is a tropical, tuberose perfume, packed full of florals, yet when one sprays and wears this on skin it comes across spicy (not surprising, considering all the spice notes listed) and dries down to quite a resinous, almost incense-like note (again, perhaps not that surprising considering the resins listed). But its the way the floral notes are represented that to my mind make this perfume genius. They combine in a way that I personally have never encountered before, making tuberose seem almost masculine, quite a feat.
I wouldn't say that Nuit De Tuberose is an easy perfume to wear and get to know. I think its rewards reveal themselves slowly, with numerous wearings, but I've come to love this perfume. While I wouldn't say Nuit De Tuberose is masculine, it is the most masculine-friendly tuberose perfume I know of.
Fenwick in Tunbridge Wells stocks the L'Artisan line now, as I may have mentioned before. The other day I found Batucada on the shelves. What is it about this name, but I keep on wanting to call it Barracuda! Anyway, the official list of notes from L'Artisan's website is brief in the extreme: Tiare flower, Caipirinha accord and skin notes.
In reality, Batucada is a very well executed citrus fragrance, with a bit more oomph than is usually encountered in this genre. When I wore it, I detected mostly a luscious orange and mandarin note, a lovely combination of sweet citrus yet with just enough acidity or bite. There is also an underlying tropical-ness to this perfume, which to me smells like orange juice just slightly sweetened by coconut milk. Not the creamy coconut flesh mind you, but the clear juice one finds in the hollow middle.
As Batucada dries down, the citrus does fade somewhat and is joined by a note that is ever so slightly musky, but more salty really. I suppose this is the skin notes they refer to.
I actually think Batucada is a really nice perfume, a citrus that manages to last quite decently, and is just different enough to stand out a bit. I wouldn't say it is a massively complicated fragrance, and definitely reminds me of summer and warmer weather, so I can't really see myself wearing this over the next few months as we go from autumn to winter. I don't know how realistically this perfume evokes Brazil and the 'effervescence and rhythm of Rio' as L'Artisan purport, but I do like the top and middle notes the best, when it smells fun, fresh, yet quite sophisticated for what it is.
I don't think I've mentioned this before, but about two months ago my better half took up running again and as part of the motivation to keep going, signed up for a 10km run as part of raising money for a charity. This took place about six weeks ago and she completed the race in approximately 1hr 17min. Since then she has kept up the good work and yesterday took part in another 10km race in London's Hyde Park, this time for the Stroke Foundation UK. She did very well, completing the race in just under 59 minutes, shaving 18 minutes off her personal best! I know I am perhaps biased, but I think that is pretty damn impressive, so well done my wife.
London, as ever, was absolutely manic. I think it's the busiest I've ever seen it in mid-October, on a Sunday. Similarly to the last time we were there, in July, it was just as difficult to get around with a pushchair, not helped by the fact that some Underground lines weren't running due to engineering works.
As always, no visit to London is complete for me without at least one perfume excursion. Unfortunately I did not manage to get to Selfridges, Harrods or Liberty, and Les Senteurs was closed. On the subject of Les Senteurs, I've always sung its praises, and nothing has led me to believe that this store offers anything less than stellar service, but I am disappointed at how expensive their samples have got. Not long ago you could order 6 generous samples for £15 inclusive of postage, then it went up to £18 which is still very reasonable. Now you can only order 4 samples at £5 per item. If you worked that out on a 6-sample basis, that is a price increase of 67%. I know raw materials and other costs go up, but that is a big jump, sadly.
Anyway, back on topic, I did manage to go to House of Fraser in Victoria. If you know this part of town at all, you may recall that this department store used to be the flagship of a group of stores called Army and Navy. Although they've been owned by House of Fraser since 1976, I still prefer the name Army and Navy Stores. It sounds more quaint. Well, House of Fraser carries a solid range of perfumes, but fairly standard. On this occasion I saw that they are now stocking the DSquared line. I tried two of them, the names escape me. There were about ten of these blighters, so I honestly couldn't remember but I thought they smelled quite nice. They lacked a bit of oomph, fading half way through but I thought for what they are they are decent.
I also sprayed on a blotter possibly my favourite Guerlain, Le Heure Bleu, in eau de parfum concentration. Honestly, this perfume just has a knack of speaking to me. I can't really explain, but smelling it is like opening a door into a world of grace, mystery and contemplation.
The final perfume I tried, on a blotter, was Bottega Veneta. My word, but this was entirely unexpected. It is lovely, lovely, lovely. I don't know how it wears on skin but it reminded me quite a lot of the style of Serge Lutens, in perhaps a slightly more pared down style. It smelled quite plumy, with hints of leather and amber. If this is a mainstream perfume, then we need more of this! Yum.
So, after a Chinese meal at our old haunt in Strutton Ground we headed back home, only to find that there were engineering works on the mainline trains as well, so we had to get a replacement bus back to Tunbridge Wells from Tonbridge (meaningless I know, unless you live in Britain,...). We waited half an hour for the bus, while the driver sat in his cab finishing eating his takeaway while we shivered in the chill evening, finally getting back home at about 9pm that night. The kids were absolutely stuffed, but the good news is that they slept well!