“You have placed a chill in my heart,’ sang Annie Lennox way back when. Here’s a perfume to fit that song: a semi-frozen piney-incense of such desolation and fakeness that it takes an effort of the will to give it any kind of nostril play.
The pine note is of such a high-pitched variety – à la some CDGs and a couple of Oriza offerings, where it is presented much more sympathetically – that it cannot help but screech. It is joined by some lemony incense, but this lemon would be better off disguising bleach. Industrial, hard, a blow to my poor head, this is craft I refuse to practice.
Volnay is another phoenix-from-the-ashes French house – one of those that had their heyday in a previous era and have been recently resurrected. The original Yapana dates from 1922, but this recreation by Amelie Bourgeois was released in 2013. Well, it seems strikingly of both times, unfurling as a classic smoky-spicy oriental and yet not appearing out of date or fuddy duddy. Apparently all Volnay creations shared a base of powder, vanilla, clove and rose (Base 4092), and this is no exception though the powder and clove are more in evidence here.
I was sceptical of the reliance on heritage, so hadn’t tried out anything from this house, until a sample of Yapana dropped in my lap. The first sniff was enough to dispel doubts – this is perfume that means business. It is an attractive mix of smoked balsamic resins inflected with the gorgeous ambery charm of the rockrose, resting on refined powders (here iris and rice are mentioned in the notes and indeed they are present, with first the iris more in evidence and later the rice powder). Not forgetting a daring dose of clovey spice. The spice may be a touch too high for some – but Yapana’s warmth seems natural and unforced.
I found the late stages (we’re talking about eight hours wear) somewhat too desiccated and the spice then began to annoy.
If you love perfumes like Caron’s Parfum Sacre or Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir, then this is also worth a try, though it’s a somewhat humbler sister to those beauties.
The declared notes are:
Top: Italian bergamot, Pink pepper, Bigarade grapefruit
Heart: Base 4092, Ylang Ylang, Rose, Elemi, Helional
Base: Siam benzoin, Labdanum, Indo patchouli, Rice bran, Iris, Golden Stone, Green vanilla
The elements of most-desired modernity from the dawn of the age of electricity – streamlining, speed, crackle and spark – seem embodied in this curious shapeshifting perfume.
The beginning is like being dragged through rosy undergrowth while wrapped in cellophane and tinfoil; natural *and* artificial is Clemency’s mode. Fortunately, this tying together of tech and nature is not an arid intellectual exercise but a living, breathing creation, perhaps one that may have drunk a touch too much milk.
What started as a peppery chypric rose with a metallic sheen, morphs into a honeyed linden accord (stripped off the greasier elements that often load down linden notes) with vegetal greens, that setting-teeth-on-edge metal and a sprinkle of dust. Eventually a film of milk runs over everything – a cross between the real thing and moisturizing body milks – while a backing of synthetic sandalwood reveals itself. The synthetic woods are perfectly at home in the overall mood of this odd but so far wearable perfume, but it’s the fatty milkiness combined with the metallic aspect that I’m less sure of – it won’t bother many I’m sure, but it constricts my throat and brings on an involuntary arching of just one eyebrow.
However, it’s the last nasty twist that got me. The florals recede to sweet slop and up comes a leather, that combined with the sweetness and milkiness had the effect of putting me off my food completely. This stage is reached after about an hour and it is what one is left with for the duration – truly this perfume shows no clemency.
A perfume of glue-sniffing addictiveness for me – combining the dry woods and patchouli accord that signifies ‘the dark’ (ooh-err) in many a Montale with a veritable blizzard of musks and sweet powders circling round a mild and civilized leather note. Black Musk feels at once completely synthetic and completely satisfying. It has richness and depth and that headcharge that comes with a perfume high. It makes me feel like I am the proud owner of a pair of turbojets, and it stimulates me into thinking carnal thoughts. That’s quite enough for me.
Spray it on in the morning and by bedtime it has turned surprisingly tender and soft – just the thing for sweet dreams.
Apparently named after a pink rose with clusters of small flowers of the open, single-layer-of-petals variety, this is a pretty safe fruity floral, not without some charms. After a worrying opening which resembles the done-to-death sugary rose-geranium combo, Ballerina No 1 skips into more appealing territory. The rose accord gets less uptight and more relaxed, coupled with a vague pulpy fruitiness with flashes of living green. This is the phase that most caught my attention because it was the most animated and natural.
Soon enough the lactonic base which is the selling point of this offering wells up, first giving a stupor-inducing body lotion impression but slowly evolving towards the milk mentioned in the notes. Almost but not quite: milky notes in perfumery often suffer from a residual metallic aftertaste and that’s the case here as well. Eventually, this milkiness takes over completely, distorting and subjugating the floral notes.
One gets the expected modest Rosine projection: I’d spritz through 2-4 ml in a day’s wear no problem.
Ballerina No 1 is filed away in the overstuffed category of ‘likeable enough but not memorable’.
Notes according to the Rosine site:
Top: Pear, Peach, Freesia, Bergamot
Heart: Rose, Peony, Violet, Raspberry
Base: Milk, vanilla, Musk, Sandalwood
I was so ready to be converted by this 'fougere placed in a woody context' – if anyone can give us something exciting on this well-trodden path it’s got to be Francis Kurkdjian. Alas, it was not to be. We get a polished perfume no doubt but one that is so part of the ‘masculine’ mainstream that most will be left wondering: ‘why should I pay so much more for this?’
The attention-catching sharp woody-vetivery accord that threads through the opening soon sinks so far into the mix it becomes all but undetectable. The lavender is fresh and rich but also doused in syrup; I don’t question the quality of the absolute used here but do miss something that would have cut through the sweetness a bit (like the promised leather which doesn’t really register to my nose).
When it settles, Masculin Pluriel is a fairly sophisticated soapy lavender fougere, but without the chops to make it stand out in an overcrowded field.
A rich, sweet but non-cloying perfume, burnished with resins and spice, with a dark and boozy vanilla vibrating within. Lovely stuff, but it is treading the kind of ground tramped upon by a few others, chief among them to my nose being Deeply by MariaLux. Where Anbar differs is that it has suggestions of wood chips and earth in the base which offer drier tones to contrast with the oozy sweetness; it also lets in some air into the density such perfumes are prone to and is altogether a more polished offering.
At first I thought MPG were after a fruity in the Japanese mode – oh-so-light on the sugar and laden with unexpected notes of salt and dry spice that gave it an ‘odd but somehow it works’ feel.
That strange opening: berry fruit bang in the middle, but surrounded by gum-drying chewy mastic, something herbal and green, a blast of clove and what registers as quite a lively musk, not of the degraded ‘white’ or ‘laundry’ variety, rather a creature with armpits and other bits of interest.
I’m not used to fruit being presented in this way, despite having danced on some of the wilder shores of niche.
However, the destination is pretty safe, where the spice and resin notes sink into a subtle amber accord that merges with the musk (which has by now toned down its ‘come hither’ posturing) with that fruit still hanging temptingly in the middle. Eventually this becomes a light and breezy blackberry scent, all the oriental overtures having evaporated. And that is what one is left with for hours. Interesting rather than thrilling.
A ‘wall of scent’ perfume that should probably never be sprayed in a travelling car for fear of traumatizing fellow passengers. While Tonnato gives top billing to the Taif rose ‘warm and persistent, immensely rich and flowering, with an intense tone of honey’, it’s the luxuriant and somewhat funky white flowers that provide the oomph. The jasmine-tuberose combo is swoon-inducing, lively round the edges but deep, rich and languid in the chord it strikes. The jasmine, in particular, seems dew-laden and just plucked. It is accentuated by glimpses of lily of the valley and the kind of hair-oil violet that is found in perfumes like Grey Flannel.
A beautifully realized creation that despite its density and volume is well-balanced, with a refreshingly light aura. If the problem with perfumes like Poison was the tendency of people to overapply, rather than the gorgeousness of the composition (of which there was little doubt in my mind), the same may be true for Soglie. But this is a dream ride which starts loud and then adjusts its volume after a short while.
Things get quite indolic and musky in the later stages.
An object lesson in how to devalue one’s niche identity. Release a generic green-tinged fruity-floral with a base that seems to be solely composed of the ‘musks’ one finds in the cheapest drugstore offerings. Let it have poor projection. Blow all the budget on the one point of interest – a rhubarb note that approximates the real thing, vegetal-metallic undertow and all, but which dissipates within half an hour. Now flog it with a peering-down-the-nose name such as Monodie (or was it Prosody?) and charge top dollar.
Really, this kind of thing is so tired it makes yawning with disinterest seem like a great effort.
Whereas previous Oud Moods have been punishing in their bombastic brutalism, Oud Satin Mood finally delivers a perfume that beckons to me.
It has a plush rich-as-halva rose and vanilla combo at its heart that is hard to resist. This accord is half high calorie gourmand and half powdery make up. It’s enlivened at the top by an energizing violet that blends beautifully into the emerging full-bodied but graceful oriental creation coming up behind.
The oud is not the main attraction here – and that’s a recommendation. Whereas MFK ouds have been stridently butch, peppery and synthetic-seeming, the construct used here is of the humid and warm variety, woody but without the screech normally associated with that descriptor in perfumery these days.
Oud Satin Mood is a buxom creature, but no wanton – its embrace is gentle and warm, but it won’t stick its tongue up your nose.
Pink is a frightening colour in perfumery, usually signifying a candied mishmash aimed at girly women. On first application Fémenin Pluriel seems to confirm this fear, having all the character of a pink liquid hand soap from the likes of KwikSave.
But spend some time with it and things improve. The nostrils flare in appreciation of the delicacy of the floral bouquet presented, abstract and caught in a hairspray haze for sure but done with great confidence. Lily of the valley is about the only blossom I can single out in the mix – the rest must be guessed at. The backbone of this creation is an unapologetically rooty iris note which earths the fluffiness of the rest and blends effortlessly with the Francis Kurkdjian signature musks.
An easy-wearing, light, everyday kind of perfume, but one that struggles to meet the expectations raised by its price point.
Kanat has such diffusive musks that its striking opening registers somewhere between hairspray and child-friendly glue. There’s a foamy almond bittersweetness to it, and a glow of very light, mimosa-like florals. It’s appealingly amorphous, all its pale colours seeping into one other in a swirling white mist, like the cover of some lost Boards of Canada album.
A true saffron note emerges and then ducks below one’s perception and then re-emerges and ducks through its course. Note to Ms Ciampagna – please release a saffron-heavy offering, you’ve got it so right here, but it’s all too peekaboo to satisfy saffron fiends like me.
There’s a gentle peachy fruitiness to the odour profile – something I don’t perceive on my skin, but which is evident in the small room test I put perfumes through. This involves wearing in a closed small room, leaving it and re-entering to get the ambient aura of the perfume.
I found Kanat’s abstraction and elusiveness intriguing, a prompt to one’s olfactory imagination rather than a guided tour. Yes, there is the humidity and salt suggested by Ciampagna’s description of this one as being ‘from ancient cisterns’, but its sprawling formlessness is wider than that. People who can’t stand that kind of thing should probably avoid.
Certain pieces of ambient music provide an oasis of muted abstraction, where the ear rests, is soothed by amorphous tones, and is fulfilled. Royal Bain de Caron is ambient for my nose. It is pastel-hued, walks in on a cloud and settles on the skin like softest of down.
Its main accord evokes a nostalgic, bygone ages mood, while being striking in its novelty. It’s a light-as-a-marshmallow floral (lilac in this instance) caressed by kitten-soft suede (an effect created mainly by the resins and sandalwood in the composition). Marshmallow, old-fashioned ‘cream’ soap, the scent of a powder compact, these are all evoked but with that gentle resins and woods base, and the infusion of a similarly restrained vanilla and the beautiful skin-like Caron musk. It has substance to it without heaviness.
Wears light and soft, so more of a ‘just for myself’ scent than something for an occasion. I was captured on my first encounter with it and wear it as a comfort scent on busy days. As it is difficult to overdo, I can spray as little or as much as I like without a second thought.
Hatria takes a traditional rose-patchouli-woods combination and spins it off into an airy and diffusive, almost aquatic direction. A neat trick, as the rose is dripping syrup and is the main player here, the spices (can’t really smell the saffron mentioned) a mere murmur, and the woods are likewise subdued. So somehow, despite the bombast of that rose and the density of ingredients, one’s nose is still tricked into perceiving this as lighter than it actually is.
But such shadow-dancing aside, what is left? I find the presentation of the rose to be so two-bit and of the cheapo attar variety, and the breath of oud so utterly devoid of mystery, that I offer praise that there’s a halfway decent sandal note lurking in the mix. All in all, a ho-hum offering which slightly tweaks the overfamiliar.
Sometimes in cold weather, I’ll do a minute or two of exercise before applying perfume – just to get my skin warm enough to be receptive. With Eva Kant I wouldn’t need to bother – it’s a perfume that somehow feels massaged in rather than sprayed on.
A resins and spice combination which has the pleasing moreishness of a skilfully made milky desert (something Indian maybe with lots of ground cardamom and just a touch of ginger), it feels comfortable, relaxed and at home on my skin. Gentle myrrh and dusty vanilla are also prominent in the central theme and they blend right in. A rather traditional citrus and lavender combo injects air and space through the opening stages, while not detracting from the after-dinner feel, and a hint of something like raw, split wood adds a pleasing contrast. The wood changes subtly, getting waxier and more prominent over the course of the wear, but doesn’t unbalance the other elements.
While Eva Kant is a fine thing, I find it (like its projection and longevity) a touch too measured, inspiring little by way of passion. An occasional visit will do me.
Why whisper when you can roar is Montale’s credo, and Aoud Flowers is no exception. So sharp, the opening made me sneeze, this one combines tart florals (geranium and rose with a twist of bergamot according to the notes) with the kind of frankensynthetic oud that could have escaped from MFK’s ‘moods’ debut trio. Indeed, Aoud Flowers feels synthetic from top to bottom, with a big doze of woowoo musks coming on like an industrial blower. It’s a testament to the power of all the other components that the oud actually feels like a supporting player here. With wear, accents of pepper and lavender (in the ‘gale of freshness’ Arabic mode) reveal themselves. Undoubtedly megabutch, undoubtedly synthetic, it still exerts a degree of fascination that catches my nose’s attention.
To begin: a heady, decadent, sensual rose that is in the bejewelled tradition of Nahema, except that this one is quieter in terms of projection. The rose is intensely honeyed and sultry, darkened and deepened by jasmine and tuberose – blooms whose scents gather intensity as darkness falls. It is backed by a crimson sunset of an amber and traces of old sandal. This is a perfume that glows; and it is smooth as pouring cream.
I can imagine this may be headache territory for some, but if you can bear its honeyed opulence (remember it is measured in its projection) Notte a Taif is a languid journey into the inner recesses of some scented palace arrayed in the finest taste. At the end of the final corridor reigns not the rose but the waxen tuberose, a floral note that usually scares me but here so dreamy and tender, that I am glad of the hours spent in its company.
An assured and pretty amazing floral oriental at the friendlier end of niche pricing.
Oh no, another one of those nose-piercing horrors of dry wood/oud notes coupled with an ‘aquatic’ haze, this is like a ‘sport’ version of one of Arabian Oud’s more mainstream offerings. Fortunately the dry wood aromachemical is used with discretion and doesn’t shout all else into silence. A touch of geranium and something that gives the impression of lavender (not listed in the long list of notes) do little to dispel the gloom cast by the enormous fake smile on this one’s face.
With wear it did soften, but I still couldn’t see the point.
I was captivated by the smooth, creamy and warm scent of the Méharées soap bar and, encouraged by the hosannas ringing on the internot, ordered a bottle of the Acqua di Profumo as a fairly safe bet. This latter is a jaw-dropping disappointment. Whereas the soap combined the dry warmth of myrrh with a silken touch of spice, the perfume attempts a sweet myrrh rendition which goes from candied orange with the most jarring synthetic screech (of the pan-scrubber variety) to an indigestible, sloppy sweet amber in the deep drydown.
The background noise on this one is deafening. I knew things were not going to plan when this opened with a blast of ‘fresh’ notes (sugary faux citruses mainly, with perhaps a smidge of lavender thrown in), instead of the grand desert caravan theme proposed by the myrrh, spices and dates which are supposedly at the heart of this creation.
Obviously this is a glorious creation for many but blind buyer beware, the perfume variant has none of the restrained luxuriousness evident in the scenting of the soap, and I for one found it quite hideous. I can’t do any Musc Ravageur comparisons as I haven’t tried MR yet.
In an ideal world this would be the perfume that would unite those who love tuberose and those who can’t stand it in a blissed-out reverie.
Dismiss the carnal clichés usually associated with this flower that carries the warmth and languor of a tropical night within its blooms. This is more about beauty for its own sake rather than sex. A milky, coconut-inflected creation that purrs with contentment, Le Beau Parfum is one of those strange creatures, presenting tropical heat in a calm, cool, measured style. I wore it on a stinking hot day riding packed subway trains and it performed wonderfully, enclosing me in a dreamy bubble rather than turning into a head- bludgeoning harpy.
The opening jasmine combining with the hint of silky coconut made me think this was another not-quite-there gardenia recreation. But then when it settled around the smooth tuberose that is the star, it truly came into its own.
I spoke of a perfect world at the start. In the real world, it’s quite likely that some tuberosephobes will go: ‘Yawn, another tuberose’, perhaps missing out on its seamless refinement. Meanwhile some tuberose fans will perhaps be left wanting for more of the trademark sultriness that they no doubt adore in their favourites.
But if one measure of beauty is that it gives the impression that it should always have existed, then this perfume is truly ‘beau’ and worth seeking out. Considering it’s a Printemps exclusive, its impressive that Francis Kurkdjian hauled this out of his top drawer.
Sometimes one needs to adjust one’s expectations in order to appreciate a thing for what it is. In the case of By Kilian’s Musk Oud, the first thing that one needs to do is forget its misleading name – neither musk nor oud define this fragrance. I’ll plump for Afternoon Reverie instead which conveys something of its lazy, pleasing mood.
Now that that’s out of the way, what do we have? A most beguiling opening for sure, marked by lovely zesty citrus (lemony but not sharp), an almost maternal cardamom note and languid layers of the most refined and gentle smoke. These elements are handled so well, there’s nothing that catches or jars, and with such an unforced sense of luxuriousness that they put me in mind of some of the better Amouages. Indeed as the rose reveals itself, inflected with the citrus and cardamom, thoughts of Lyric are not too far away. However this rose is slightly shyer, taking its place among the other players rather than elbowing its way to the front.
The backing consists mainly of some mould-tinged patchouli, wormwood and an array of aromatic woods – but it’s subtle, surprisingly lifting up rather than bedding down the gently spiced main theme.
I find it a fine, living, breathing thing, an impressive achievement which overcame the scepticism with which I often regard By Kilian offerings.
L’eau MiXte demonstrates that the key to successfully showcasing citrus notes lies in the cast assembled to push from behind. This entry to Patricia Nicolaï’s Eau Fraiche range is rightly celebrated for its complexity and solid construction – managed without sacrificing the effortless nature of a good summery citrus.
Here we have a sparkling bergamot and lemon combo (with grapefruit and blackcurrant bud accents) which is supported by a rich green and sweet floral accord in the mode of Diptyque’s L’Ombre Dans L’Eau, with a further layer of dry vetiver and moss coming up behind. And yet the focus stays on the citrus, which is natural and light and bears a big smile. When the citrus fades after a few hours, one is left with a floral perfume which seems complete in its own right.
In Magnifico Laura Tonatto delivers a green fig, sap flowing from where it has been plucked, with a generous twist of zesty lemon – crisp, summery and energizing. Lavender is a perky backing player. Perfumes this light and lively are often not taken seriously as they have no grand statement to make, but the sureness of touch here is unmistakeable.
Whereas the composition is a refreshing delight, I’m a little underwhelmed by the projection which could have been more upfront. As this has summer written all over it, I need to try it when the mercury rises to see whether it holds its own better then.
A perfume all real life Julias can safely stay away from – an ineffectual vegetal floral (rather than the fruity floral suggested by the notes) that carries a distinct whiff of the water in a vase of flowers that has been standing for a week.
There is a good tart rhubarb recreation in the mix and something peppery, but the florals are just dull and blurred and the fruit notes almost imperceptible. The nose perceives this as highly synthetic, which was surely not the intention.
Montale is often slammed for producing far too many new ouds that are just slight variations of each other. Looking at some of the notes in this – rose, oud, saffron – it would be easy to leap to the conclusion that the house is at it again.
But Aoud Amber Rose is surprisingly different in Montale’s line up, being quite a stark and angular creation. The rose scent here is desiccated, like a jar of dried out rose petals, the oud and other woods are also dry as a bone but without the norlimbanol overdose horror, there are whip flashes of pungent leather, and the whole is presented under an overarching layer of saltiness, like dried sweat.
Does it work? Most certainly. But it’s not a crowd-pleaser, that’s for sure, it’s far too severe for that. It’s the imagined smell of a sadistic governess or housemaster – and has that kind of ‘wrong’ eroticism about it. This is how it smells to myself, but the trail is a much more approachable wine-soaked rose, so I don’t run the risk of coming across as Cruella to acquaintances.
Among the loveliest presentations of the narcissus note – stripped off fat and languor, and invested with a brisk, green energy and impeccable style. Le Temps d’une Fête wears so light and airy, it’s astonishing it can stay true to the rich, beguiling complexity of the narcissus at its heart, but it does. And what a narcissus: nectar-laden (yet kept on edge by the big dose of galbanum), deep and true, and alive with change.
An unfussy wonder combining classicism and vivacity, that demonstrates just what Patricia Nicolaï is capable of when she is on form. Spring starts right here.
Minya’s debut Hedonist was a grower for me – a perfume that I was initially not completely convinced by but which drew me slowly under its spell with each subsequent wearing. So my hopes were raised by the follow up – three perfumes released simultaneously, of which Eau de Hongrie promised an evocation of the delicious Tokaji Aszu wine.
I mention Hedonist for a reason, as Eau de Hongrie is definitely its more honeyed but also plainer and lighter sibling. The honey is so upfront that the chorus of backing notes are far receded behind it. It is no doubt a lovely honey – deep but not cloying, frisky on the palate, but the mystery of a creation like Hedonist is missing. There are touches of a delicate sweet booziness (saying it’s a recreation of Tokaji is a stretch, though) and meaty immortelle. The tarter tones, which made Hedonist the strange jewel that it is, are also present but so timid they are almost an afterthought.
All in all, the result is a perfume which, while pleasing enough in terms of its smell, has little tonal variation. That it is so obviously derivative – it could be a lighter flanker of Hedonist – doesn’t help much either.
A perfume so wrapped in sheets of ‘clean’ and ‘fresh’ needs to be working pretty hard to stand out from the drugstore dreck clogging up those categories. But Bosque, a creation of great transparency and crispness, wins through; a perfectly unisex (or rather sexless) scent, sheer and cool that could lighten many a summer day.
After a blink-and-you-miss it dab of saffron at the start, a succulent soda-pop grapefruit/citrus takes over, nothing bitter or catpissy about it; fortunately it doesn’t smell overly chemical either. This citrus accord stays for the duration joined by gentle grassy greens, sweet meadow florals and soapy musks in a light, bright confection that is easy on the nose.
It ain’t utterly radiant however; the main drawbacks being the softness of its trail, and the suggestion of a certain good-for-you antiseptic quality at times.
The jackal-headed god of the afterlife now prowls the perfumery counter. There is something close and closed about Anubis’s opening phase which with the rich use of resins and incense could be reminiscent of the mummy’s tomb – where the cloth-bound body lies anointed with precious unguents, with perfumed smoke rising from every corner, small flames flickering across the walls.
At its core, Anubis is a leather, but it is a curious one, brushed with sweetish human skin-like odours and smoke, and permeated with an enticing butteriness. It’s a suede, but not of the new and untouched variety, this one is stained and aged. There is something furry circling around it, breathing impatiently. The most daring of Papillon’s debut trio, and perhaps the most successful.
And it has a trick up its sleeve in the late stages – like after 6-7 hours into the wear. A burnished amber creeps up on padded foot, millimetre by millimetre, until it is suddenly staring you right in the eyes.