About two weeks ago, when I posted my list of the best perfumes of 2016, I hinted at the sense of frustration that's experienced when you don't manage to wear and test a praiseworthy scent close to its original release date. Given the number of new fragrances churned out each year, this is becoming an increasing problem and, as Luca Turin said, "from the standpoint of somebody who's interested in fragrance" the current state of affairs is "the stuff of nightmares". The predicament probably has no solution. Unless your name is Michael Edwards, it simply isn't possible to smell - let alone evaluate - all new fragrances. But that doesn't make the annoyance any easier to bear when you do come across a gem which should have received all the kudos and adoration that are bestowed on the contents of people's 'best of' lists. These are the thoughts that were high on my mind when I finally got to spend some quality time with Dominique Ropion's The Night for Frederic Malle.
A little while ago, I made a brief mention of the fact that gourmand scents seem to be going through a calorie-conscious phase. I'm now thrilled to be able to let you know that an article I've written on the subject has been published in today's edition of The Sunday Times Style magazine. If you're based in the UK, please do buy a copy. You can also click on this link to read an online version, but please be aware that only registered users are allowed to read full articles on The Times' site.
Rightly or wrongly, it looks as though 2016 is going to be marked as a particularly horribilis annus by the gods of record-keeping. Certainly, in political terms, events in the UK, USA, Italy, Poland and a few other countries suggested that the forces of liberalism are being drowned out by a growing tide of conservatism. This isn't the time for delving into such topics, but it is interesting to consider what sort of impact these global developments have had on the perfume world, which is, after all, vitally concerned about whether people feel able to spend their hard-earned pennies.
In the territory of independent scents, the reaction appears to have been a retreat. True, several new indie brands launched this year, and many of them - together with their more established counterparts - gave us some commendable scents. But overall, the so-called niche side of the industry has come across as extremely fearful and reluctant to push the envelope in the very ways which caught scentusiasts' attention in the first place.
In an astonishing twist, mainstream brands seem to have gone the other way, displaying more bravery than I'd imagined possible in the current climate. Don't get me wrong: big-name perfume houses still gave us plenty of soul-destroying duds. But maybe because a few of them were willing to splash out on bigger budgets and explore more interesting ideas, a lot of their wares weren't the instantly-forgettable, cardboard-cutout nonentities to which we're treated far too often.
Oh look, SOMEHOW all the Christmas cooking responsibilities have fallen to me and Madame Persolaise AGAIN. Mind you, I quite enjoy the whole thing... except for the supermarket shopping. That is an experience right up there with root canals and PPI calls in the annals of first-world problems. So, whilst things are still relatively calm, I thought I'd take a moment to wish you and yours lots of laughter, wonderful food and plenty of relaxation for the festive season. Enjoy every minute of it!
And please do come back on the 30th for my rundown of the best perfumes of 2016.
If Kimonanthe were an item of food, it would be marmalade shot through with slivers of charcoal.
If it were a painting, it would be Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow On White And Red) by Mark Rothko.
If it were a person, it would be the linguistics professor who never quite seems to inhabit the same planet as everyone else.
Isn't it wonderful to come across a perfume that you can't immediately work out? Like a painting that seems unfathomable at first glance (Ad Reinhardt's Abstract Painting No. 5) or a film that doesn't reveal its riches until a second viewing (Sokurov's Russian Ark), a difficult fragrance is a rare gift: a compelling conundrum that tugs at your attention in sly, subtle ways. This unknowable quality is precisely what makes Fabrice Pellegrin's Kimonanthe (part of Diptyque's boutique-only Collection 34) such an attention-worthy release.
Please click here to read my latest piece for ParfumPlus magazine, in which I run through my scented recommendations for winter 2016*. If you flick through to the next page of the article, you should also find an Arabic translation.
* The article is an edited version of a post that first appeared here on Persolaise.com; click on this link to read it.
After well over a year of threatening discontinuation, it looks as though the string-pullers at Guerlain have finally decided to cut their ties with an underestimated member of their troupe: Cologne Du 68, composed by Sophie Labbé. So before every single bottle disappears from the shelves, here's a quick shout out in its defence. Principally a juxtaposition of solar citruses with more decadent, sugary, ambery notes, it achieves that beaming, toss-of-the-hair, happy-chic nonchalance which so many scents with similar aspirations fail to deliver. Or, to put it in Guerlain-history terms, it bridges the gap between the lip-licking sensibilities of, say, L'Heure Bleue and the more effervescent, more daylight-focussed aesthetics of Eau De Guerlain or the Aqua Allegoria scents. With its feast of notes (68, to be precise), it creates a symphonic - and yet never overwrought - olfactory expression of a contented sigh, an exhalation of breath that marks the mental shift from the demands of the morning to the more relaxed mode of the evening. I've been fond of it since it was released and I shall be sorry to see its unforced charm leave the Guerlain line-up. Do try to find it while you still you can.
[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette obtained by the author in 2016]
If it were an item of clothing, it would be a little girl's pink party dress, made out of gleaming vinyl.
If it were a mood, it would be defiance.
The issue of political correctness rarely comes up in perfume discussions. Granted, it appears with heart-sinking regularity when the subject is perfume advertising - is it really so difficult to break away from dubious images of twig-thin, pre-pubescent women? - but it's a rarity when the matter at hand is the actual concept behind a fragrance. When it does raise its impish head, it serves to prove just how provocative a medium perfume can be, crystallising social norms and forcing us to question assumptions we too easily take for granted.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter will be aware that, over the last few days, I've been posting Christmas gift recommendations under the tag #PersolaiseXmas. All those posts have now been brought together below, so I hope they give you some shopping inspiration!
If you have a moment to spare, please head over to Feelunique to read the first two articles I've written for them as one of their new male contributors. Click on this link for my thoughts on the best ways to buy perfume online and on this link for a piece on gender-fluid scents.
In recent weeks, much of my time has been taken up with writing articles for other platforms, which means that I haven't had many opportunities to share my scented views with all of you here on Persolaise.com. To try to redress the balance, I've put together a list of some of the new (and new-ish) releases which have caught my attention and which would make worthy additions to your winter wardrobe. I realise I've already reviewed some of them on this blog, but never mind: they deserve the repetition!
Christine Nagel’s take-over as in-house perfumer at Hermès achieves completion with this impeccably balanced juxtaposition of a leather note with rose. Thigh-smacking earthiness on the one hand; eyelash-fluttering coyness on the other. The stirrup-shaped bottle is attention-grabbing too.
More than a decade ago, Andy Tauer released his classic amber composition, L’Air Du Desert Marocain. With the help of the blogosphere, it became the stuff of modern legend. Now he gives us this extrait-strength version, still swooning beneath the power of labdanum and vanilla, but lighter on the smoky notes. Gorgeous.
If Apsu were a colour, it would be jungle green.
If it were a texture, it would be the flesh of a honeydew melon.
If it were a sound, it would be air bubbling up through water.
In objective terms, Ulrich Lang's new Apsu - named after the Babylonian proto-god of the "watery depths beneath the earth" - is certainly green. But its greenness is of a curious, perplexing character, falling neither into the figurative, 'cut grass' camp nor into the galbanum-heavy territory redolent of peas and peppers. Instead, its viridian nature is aqueous, albeit not in the ozonic, seaweedy, overly-synthetic manner that blights countless other so-called 'marine' scents. Here, the impressionistic spring bubbling across the top notes is genuinely fresh, as though it's just flowed through a travel-brochure-lake, where the reeds sway in time to the breeze and the heat never rises above 25 Celsius. Key to this effect is what I read as a banana facet (a combo of the jasmine and water lily listed on the official notes?) as well as a goosebump-inducing sprinkling of pepper, both of which bring vim and velocity to what might otherwise have been a pleasantly forgettable piece of work. Picture a tanned diver enjoying a snorkel in tropical waters and you'll get a sense of this perfume's dynamic. Confident and intriguing, Apsu adds a novel twist to the current mini-revival of 70s-style green scents. Do check it out.
[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Ulrich Lang in 2016.]
This chap needs no introduction. Frederic Malle, the man behind one of the most influential perfume brands of the 21st century, will be making a personal appearance at the London branch of Selfridges on Thursday 17th November, from 5:30 to 6:00. For a free ticket, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are able to spare the time, I'd certainly recommend going along; he's a fascinating charmer.
PS For part 1 of an in-depth interview I conducted with Malle in 2013, please click here.
An exciting weekend for me! Tomorrow (Sunday 6th November) sees the publication of my first piece for The Sunday Times' Style magazine, in which I examine the current revival of 70s-style perfumes, as seen in the latest releases from Amouage, Tom Ford and Arquiste, amongst others. If you're based in the UK, please do buy a copy.
The award-winning journalist, Lee Kynaston, has just written a piece for Fashionbeans in which he explores current trends in male perfumery. The article includes contributions from yours truly, as well as various other industry commentators. My input aside, I'd say it's well worth your time; please click here to read it.