vendredi 29 avril 2016

My Top Ten Scents of Spring 2016

The most impressive thing I smelled this season can be had for neither gold nor silver: Femme, in the original formula, redone by Michel Roudnitska for the Fragrance Foundation France’s tribute to his father. The sweat of a goddess fed on spices. I made a point of waving a blotter under the nose of every perfumer I saw at the Fifi Awards, including Olivier Cresp, who authored the current formulation (which I like very much). Most marched off to get their own blotters, including Alberto Morillas. And of course, I’d like to salute the victory, for the second year running, of Parfum d’Empire for the French Fifi’s Prix des Experts, with Tabac Tabou, up against Ostara (sadly being discontinued by Penhaligon’s) and Noir Exquis (L’Artisan), both by Bertrand Duchaufour; Mimosa Cardamom (Jo Malone), À la Rose (Francis Kurkdjian) and Cologne Indélébile by Dominique Ropion (Frédéric Malle).

There’s no particular olfactory thread running through this season’s selection: I just pretty much grabbed what I’ve enjoyed wearing and/or thought was interesting over the past weeks… The entries are way too long: that’s what happens when you don’t post for months. You get talkative.

L’Eau d’Issey Pure by Dominique Ropion for Issey Miyaké
Along with bitter, mineral and tannic effects, saltiness is the most interesting avenue to explore right now in perfumery, and a deft segue from gourmand to gustatory. Not to mention it works with skin (via sweat). In providing L’Eau d’Issey with a 21st-century interpretation, Dominique Ropion shifts the aquatic genre into oceanic, ambergris territory. The IFF captive Maritima ousts calone, along with most of its cucurbitaceous effects. Like the perfumer’s previous composition for Issey Miyaké, Nuit d’Issey, L’Eau d’Issey Pure plays on mineral notes alongside the saltiness, managing to convey the scent of both wave-splashed skin and sand (a similar mineral-animal effect was achieved, very differently, in Alaïa). This being Ropion, the seawater-drenched floral bouquet, centered on muguet (the original aquatic note), is powerfully radiant. This is an oceanic scent aqua-phobics might want to give a squirt to.

Grand Chalet by Françoise Caron for Astier de Villatte
For me, the woman who conceived L’Eau d’orange verte can do no wrong, but with the unpromisingly-named Grand Chalet, François Caron has made me silly-happy. The trouble with capturing the scent of linden blossom is the scale:  you usually experience it as an atomic mushroom of scent, under dozens of trees. The honeyed, faintly anisic lime blossom composed by Caron for the furniture and tableware designers Astier de Villatte is a giant, bawdy floral whomp to Olivia Giacobetti’s delicate herbal tea Tilleul for Parfums d’Orsay, up to then the most satisfactory interpretation of the note. As for the “Grand Chalet”, it was the painter Balthus’ refuge in the Swiss Alps: his widow, the countess Setsuko Klossowski de Rola, has created a collection for the French designer duo, wanted to evoke the giant linden tree that shades the chalet.

Efflor_esce by Frank Voelkl for Nomenclature
Add Paradisone to any white floral blend, and it’ll be as though you’re smelling the soul of every jasmine blossom that gave up its life to scent, and went to heaven. A chemically purer, and therefore much more potent version of hedione developed by Firmenich, Paradisone is showcased in the first series produced by Nomenclature, a new American brand celebrating the contribution of chemistry to perfumery. As limpid as a glass of jasmine tea and intensely radiant, Efflor_esce was composed by the author of Ylang 49 (Le Labo), still one of my go-to fragrances.

Angel Muse by Quentin Bisch for Thierry Mugler
Seven years after starting Givaudan’s fabled in-company school, Quentin Bisch won the brief for reinventing Angel: the other finalist was none other than its creator, Olivier Cresp. Angel Muse started off as a flanker, but Clarins was so taken with Bisch’s proposal that the fragrance earned its own bottle design and color (a golden peach). Instead of upping the glycemic index – compared to today’s syrupy blends, Angel now comes off as practically Jansenist --, Bisch decided to shift the original accord on the scent map. The cotton-candy/ candied apple is replaced by hazelnut cream, while the huge patchouli block that balanced out the former gives way to vetiver. Already part of the hazelnut accord along with ambrettolide, a silky musk with nutty facets, vetiver cuts through the gourmand notes, adding a smoky, salty, bitter counterpoint. Angel Muse confirms, if need be, that Angel is a specific olfactory form, in that it can shift that form onto totally different notes and still belong to the Angel family. In doing so, it reasserts its innate toughness: this is no treacly Hallmark-card cherub. As the whiff of sulfur in the top notes hints, Angel Muse is closer to Beelzebub before the fall.

Narciso Poudrée by Aurélien Guichard for Narciso Rodriguez
I was pretty disgruntled that Narciso won no awards at the French Fifis. Out of last year’s mainstream output, it was the first one that immediately came to mind when I was asked what had impressed me. Though the giant rose-vetiver structure of the original is less in evidence in the new Narciso Poudrée, it’s got an interestingly cosmetic texture to it – that cool, powdery yet moist feel some spray-on body products have, like a petal.

Mentha Religiosa by Fabrice Pellegrin for Dear Rose
This is perfume as pun, both in the name and the notes. In French, mante religieuse is “praying mantis”. By matching mint (mentha in Latin) with incense, in an olfactory version of the word-play, Fabrice Pellegrin brings out the innate coolness of the latter. Against the chilly duo, heliotropin and patchouli add a warmer layer.  It seems like a riff on Pellegrin’s earlier iris and tobacco Volutes for Diptyque – a shift on the olfactory map with a playful After-Eight vibe.

White Song by Fabrice Pellegrin for Dear Rose
Despite its name and source of inspiration – the headspace capture of the Cestrum nocturnum, also known as night-blooming jasmine or queen of the night – what comes to mind when I sniff this wonderfully potent temptress is that song by the Runaways: “Hello daddy, hello mom, I’m your ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-CHERRY BOMB!”. A big mouthwatering cherry note set afire by ginger and clove, White Song, like Mentha Religiosa, has a terrifically loose, rock’n’roll feel to it.

LAVS by Filippo Sorcinelli for UNUM
When at least three niche brand owners tell you “Go see Filippo”, your ears perk up. When it turns out Filippo is the hipster Franciscan with the El Greco eyes who’s been taking pictures of you, you  get seriously curious. Especially since Filippo actually makes outfits for Pope Francis. LAVS, which is the name of his religious vestment studio, was initially designed to scent the parcels delivered to to the Vatican – a big, growling incense that could be a 21st-century Avignon, but with even radder credentials.

Eau de Néroli Doré by Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermès
The last-but-one fragrance composed by Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermès during his tenure as in-house perfumer, Eau de Néroli Doré is less strikingly original than Eau de Narcisse Bleu or Eau de Gentiane Blanche, but it is tremendously enjoyable and not quite as simple as it first comes off to be. There’s a lustrous, metallic edge to his neroli that’s boosted by the cardamom and saffron. The latter, in turn, lends an uncanny, umami aftertaste that musses (or messes) up the blossom’s pristine petals.

Still Life in Rio by Dora Baghriche for Olfactive Studio
I’d call it sparkling: the scent fizzes, shimmies and shakes with the most crackling of citrus notes, yuzu. It even has that salty tang certain sparkling mineral waters can have. Dora Baghriche is a bold young perfumer initially mentored by Bertrand Duchaufour, and she’s got an interesting take on the future of gourmand scents. To her, it’s more about a way of approaching notes than about drenching them in glucose – the first time I noticed her work, it was a pistachio-truffle accord: that woman walks her talk. Hence her willingness to take on a good-time, fruity theme for Olfactive Studio instead of heading straight for the woods (or incense, or leather, or any of the niche memes).

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10 commentaires:

  1. So the original Femme was sweaty too? The vintage I own, an EDC from perhaps the 70s, is unimpressive and I have long wondered if Femme had been allowed to run down in those years. That would explain why someone at last decided to put some serious money into a reformulation in 1989, resulting in a fragrance much better than it had been before. This is just my speculation though.

    Oh, and Ostara is d/c already? Was there a problem with it? In another forum there was discussion about changes in the scent between samples and FBs. I never got to smell it.

    1. Annemarie, I also have latter-era vintage Femmes. I think they suffered from their aging, compared to that fabulous "new vintage". I'm wondering whether there was a time when Femme was no longer being produced by E. Roudnitska's company, even before Olivier Cresp's reformulation. I wouldn't swear to it though. I do know that when the owners of the Rochas licence did not accept E.R.'s reformulation it wounded him very deeply.
      As for Ostara, I never heard anything mentioned about technical issues - I'll ask Bertrand Duchaufour when next I see him. I adore that scent! The former owners of Penhaligon's and L'Artisan did do a number of discontinuations, and Puig seems set to go the same way (though thankfully, Séville à l'aube has been spared).

    2. Oh no, I didn't know that Roudnitska had offered a r/f of Femme. That would be a terrible blow, hard to recover from. I'm always intrigued by the story of its creation and surprised that a novelist hasn't picked it up to spin a tale of romance during WW2.

      The discussion of Ostara is in yesterday's NST post about top 10 spring fragrances.

    3. Oddly, though I really like Cresp's version, "fresh", non-IFRA Femme based on the original formula smells much more modern. Maybe it's because we can reverse-engineer E.R.'s later, more pared-down formulas into it... As for Ostara, yes, I did see some of the discussion on Friday. Sometimes ingredients do evolve or interact oddly. That was the case with Bertrand's defunct Havana Vanille for L'Artisan.

  2. You always have the most tantalizing lists, Denyse! The only two I've tried are Eau de Néroli Doré (bought a nomad size) and LAVS which I'm trying to convince myself I don't need. I have Santa Maria Novella Melograno which I think is similar but sunnier. I also feel very conflicted about smelling like a Pope! ;-) I'll try to distract myself by searching out your other choices. nozknoz

    1. Thanks Nozknoz! Wow, it had never occurred to me to match LAVS with Melograno (which an ex wears, "Monsieur" in my book). As for Popes, well, the current one is pretty cool. Filippo does insist that his scents are non-denominational, but I appreciate the reconnection between scent and the sacred...

  3. I was advised in Penhaligon's that Ostara simply wasn't selling; that customers found the heavy narcissus opening 'difficult' and lacked the will to stick with it. Which is a huge shame, as it's so rewarding. I love it.

    1. That *is* a shame. Now I suppose they'll be working exclusively with perfumers from the big firms - rather than a maverick like Bertrand -- and putting out much safer offerings. Although apparently his Sartorial is one of their good (or even better) sellers.

  4. The Scentimentalist1 mai 2016 à 12:22

    Yes, I believe Sartorial does sell well -- to both sexes. I was fearful for Ostara as, for me, it was a sister to Duchaufour's equally gorgeous Amaranthine. Also non-'safe' (though a really exciting new departure for Penhaligon's on launch), and also pretty quickly discontinued. Too bad!

    1. True, I was also thinking of that connection. I only have a large decant of both, and I'm regretting now I didn't get full bottles. They were really the most interesting things Penhaligon's had done under the tenure of that US holding company that also had L'Artisan.