100 Fragrances Every Frag-Head Guy Should Try, part 18: Necessary Learning
by, 26th October 2011 at 04:11 AM (10929 Views)
For anyone just joining me, Iíve been working for a while on this rather epic list. I canít believe itís been this long and Iím only just hitting number 50. Again, this is inspired by the NowSmellThis list of 100 Fragrances Every Perfumista Must Try, but written from a male perspective, or at least including more ďmasculineĒ fragrances.
As stated before, Iím no expert and have no qualifications whatsoever to write a definitive list Ė Iím just an avid sniffer. So, I look forward to comments, complaints, and suggestions.
With that, I get to a hard-to-classify set of scents. In short, there are some combinations of notes that have become widely used, and an appreciation of perfumes would be greatly enhanced by knowing how to recognize these common formulas. Weíve already addressed this with the woody chypre and the violets-over-leather of Cuir de Russie, but there are many many more. So, here are three groundbreaking perfumes that introduced the world to mixes that are now being used a lot.
50. Eau Parfumťe au Thť Vert by Bulgari
If youíve been following my crazy blog, you may remember when I suggested sniffing the herbs in your kitchen and noticing how both bay leaves and sage smell kind of like tea. This has actually become a very popular perfume trick. By combining them with lemon verbena and flowers (usually jasmine, because itís a common tea flavoring) or even mint, you can get something that smells like a perfumed vision of fresh green tea.
I should warn you, though, that Eau Parfumťe hides this now-legendary tea accord under a clean top of orange and pepper mixed with fresh laundry chemicals, so it takes an hour or so before it fades to this important tea smell, and it always retains a fabric softener vibe mixed with the tea.
For a better example, you can smell this herbs+verbena=tea trick very upfront and easily in Miller Et Bertauxís Green Green Green And Green perfume, which would actually probably have been a better pick as an instructional tool, but Parfumťe did it first and is widely considered one of the reasons that its nose Jean Claude Ellena is so good, so thatís why it made the list instead of Green.
51. Dťclaration by Cartier
Dťclaration is probably one of the weirdest scents you can just go down to the mall and smell everywhere, which must be saying something. Like Parfumťe au Thť Vert, itís by renowned nose Jean Claude Ellena, and those who follow his work will tell you that an awful lot of what heís done since (Bigarade Concentree for Malle and just about anything with citrus in it for HermŤs) have been unabashed re-mixes of what he did in Dťclaration. As such, if you want to understand the Ellena vocabulary, Dťclaration is required sniffing. Plus, as stated above, itís just plain interesting.
It starts off with an unabashed pairing of orange and cumin, simultaneously juicy and sweet and spicy and sweaty. If you can make it through the cumin overdose, youíll be rewarded with one of the most baffling and artistic basenotes in perfumery. You know that smell on someoneís neck after youíve been making out for a long time? Itís slobbery and sexy and hormonal and deeply human. Thatís what Dťclarationís base smells like. But for all its natural humanity, itís also shockingly mineral. When I was a kid, my mom used to let us make little art projects by melting crayons on hot aluminum foil. Dťclaration smells like that (melting wax and overheated metal) every bit as much as it smells like kisses on human skin. The duality and simultaneity is in your face and confounding and itís almost impossible to imagine a great perfumer doing this as anything other than a thought provoking piece and an artistic statement Ė itís too profound and obvious to be intended purely as functional.
52. …goÔste by Chanel
(Not Platinum …goÔste Ė thatís totally different)
After the thoroughly modern Eau Parfumťe and Dťclaration, …goÔste is a bit of a different story, but aside from its history and familiar name, itís actually on my list primarily as an indispensable learning tool.
…goÔste is dense and thick and confusing, but itís actually based on a centuries-old Middle Eastern mix of rose, patchouli, and sandalwood. This is one of those magical mixes that doesnít smell like its components. The rose and patchouli fuse to form a sort of fruity jam smell, while the patchouli and sandalwood combine to create a dense, sweet richness that largely defines the ďorientalĒ genre (remember Coromandel?). This trio is incredibly important and worth getting to know. It forms the foundation on which Montale have built their oud line, and itís the core of FeminitŤ du Bois and a lot of Serge Lutens. When someone refers to a ďdark roseĒ, itís usually this, from Frederic Malleís Portrait Of A Lady to the new Mark Birley Charles Street to countless upscale feminine designer perfumes.
For the record, …goÔste is much more than just these three ingredients, of course. Most notably, there are sparkly aldehydes on top and a strong berry presence that helps flavor the dark rose jam (these turn up in most of the scents Iíve mentioned, too Ė this is a very common recipe). Not to beat a dead horse, but youíll also notice that …goÔste is a very established and accepted menís scent, but that it has been endlessly copied in scents targeted to women, just further proof that gender distinctions in perfume are mostly just useless marketing crap.
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