vendredi 15 juillet 2016

My Top 10 Fragrances for Summer in 2016

ADDED ON FRIDAY 15 JULY: I'd programmed this post ahead of time, before learning of the tragedy in Nice. I've considered taking it down, but since it's already up, I've only removed the jaunty intro... Last January after Charlie Hebdo I remember taking solace in smelling beautiful things. Hopefully it'll work this time too.

Queen of the Night (Grandiflora)
Bertrand Duchaufour invents the scent of the Night-blooming Cereus for the Australian brand Grandiflora by hooking up the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms through what seems like a whopping dose of indole. To conjure the spectacular desert blossom, he combines two non-creamy white flowers, orange blossom and pittosporum (the latter an accord). The made-up flower bears imaginary fruit, sticky, purple-juiced berries with a grape bubble-gum, shaken up by an incensy blast of cold desert air.

Cologne Indélébile (Frédéric Malle)
I’ve been stuck on this since I blind-smelled it for the Olfactorama Awards (it lost out to Misia by Chanel, already a winner at the French Fifis). Without the “cologne” cue to skew my perception, I entered Dominique Ropion’s composition through the green, tannic effects of narcissus before recognizing it (within three minutes: this may seem like “just” an eau de cologne, but it has a very distinctive signature). I love the virtuosic play on functional fragrance notes, including a Chernobyl-sized cloud of white musks, so much that I broke down and bought the shower gel.

Veilleur de Nuit (Serge Lutens)
It isn’t hard to imagine “Night Watchman” veer into kinky Night Porter territory as Serge Lutens teases chocolate into owning up to its bestial bent with lashes of civet, castoreum, tuberose and vetiver. But the only pain it inflicts is the price point. The rest is all yummy-dirty earthiness, mud and honey-caked fur.

Sous les Magnolias (Pierre Bourdon)
Authored by no less of a nose than the man who gave us Kouros, Cool Water and Féminité du Bois (with Christopher Sheldrake), this limpid yet vintage-vibe fragrance drove me to distraction for several days, since it smells like a long-lost Roudnitska. In fact, I did think it was a Roudnitska when I blind-smelled the blotter. Not a demented mistake: Bourdon, whose father was deputy director of Dior perfumes, did study with the great man. And I remember Frédéric Malle telling me, when he launched Eau de Magnolia, that Roudnitska had always wanted to capture the flower’s scent… To sum up: I so need to buy this.

Ma Bête (Eris Parfums)
Another ghost , Ma Bête, composed by Antoine Lie for Yesterday’s Perfumes author Barbara Herman, hinted at several blasts from the past until I realized that this was Lie’s take on the fabled Animalis base – a waxy, fatty, feral, honeyed beast lurking in Shocking and Visa (probably), as well La Nuit (Paco Rabanne: the one Luca Turin called “Tabu sprayed on a horse”), Poison, Kouros and their unnatural offspring Parfum de Peau… Like wearing a vintage fur coat with the lining ripped out.

Peau d’Ailleurs (Starck)
I shouldn’t be mentioning a scent coming out in September, but this is a) by Annick Menardo, and anything by Annick is worth sticking your shnoz into ASAP. And b) the famed French designer’s brief mentioned no notes, only words like “meteorite” and “the cosmic smell of the void”… The result: a compellingly weird, static, clean mineral dust smell, into which materializes an apricot the size of an asteroid – it just appears, as though it had tumbled out of a black hole. As Mr. Spock would say: “Fascinating”.

Ensoleille-moi (Gas)
Recently relaunched, the confidential Ensoleille-moi, composed by Mathilde Laurent after she left Guerlain, and finished by Isabelle Doyen when Mathilde was hired by Cartier, has the easy-going vibe and airy texture of something that could’ve ended up as an Aqua Allegoria.  The scent is worked around the monoï note, tiaré blossom (a gardenia-like Polynesian flower) steeped in coconut oil. What’s most surprising about it is the huge proportion of calone it contains. In fact, there’s so much of it that it becomes invisible: the scale literally changes the perception of the note, and it barely registers as an aquatic. I give myself a squirt when I remember that despite the temperature, this is actually mid-summer on the calendar, and that somewhere, in a parallel universe, I’m on the beach.

Géranium Équipage (Hermès)
I discovered this when I blind-smelled it for the Olfactorama Awards, and voted for it as Best Masculine without a second thought. On paper, spices shouldn’t work in summer, but given the minty-metallic splash of geranium Jean-Claude Ellena added to Guy Robert’s 1970 classic, the clove-and-cinnamon burn turns cool. Ellena’s elegance shines through those breezy, jazzy reworkings – perhaps having something to start from turns the creative process into more of a game. It makes me hope we haven’t smelled the last of JCE.

Must Gold (Cartier)
Again – sounding like a scratched record, am I? – I rediscovered this one in an anonymous decant sent out for the Olfactorama Awards (it won Best Feminine in a tie with Narciso). First sniff. Brain lit up. “Yay, galbanum”, it said. A funky jasmine comes out in the second blast, pushed forward by (bra cups filled with?) a powder-puff of vanilla and musk. A thoroughly enjoyable variation on the original olfactory oxymoron created by Alberto Morillas: the green Oriental.

Terracotta Le Parfum (Guerlain)
This was in my 2014 and 2015 summer lists, but we all need that one perfume that means “if I’m smelling this, it must be summer”. The matching sunscreen and moisturizer are my default settings for the few days a year I spend near a pool.

For more summer round-ups, please visit:

The above illustration is of Pat Cleveland by Antonio Lopez.

18 commentaires:

  1. Dear Denyse,
    We are so sorry of what has happened in Nice. All our love and friendship from Madrid.

  2. Hi Denyse. I so look forward to your lists and sneak previews. These all sound beautiful but alas I've only tried one - the Guerlain. I'm very interested in smelling the new Lutens perfumes too. So sad today in France and I've shed a few tears.

    1. Hi Megan. I'm a bit embarrassed by the fact that so few of these are accessible -- except the Guerlain, the Hermès and the Cartier. They're the ones that speak to me these days, and since I don't have the time to write reviews, I wanted at least to acknowledge them.
      As for Nice... I made sure my friends there were ok, but right now, it's just too hard to process. I'd just triumphantly told my dad in Canada that by miracle we'd gone through the Euro and Bastille Day without an attack. And just when I hung up, I found out we hadn't...

  3. I'm sad to hear from you under such tragic circumstances. I wish this would end already. :(

    So many of these sound wonderful: I'm especially anxious try Sous les Magnolias. Those blooms are some of my favorite. I love walking up to an ancient Magnolias and placing my nose into a flower large as my head, petals thick as parchment. I was a bit disappointed in Malle's magnolia. It has the creaminess of a lemon custand but it is like a ghost. That price for Mr. Bourdon's is outrageously low too. Buy two!

    I haven't tried Geranium Equipage yet but I love Ellena's command of spices. Epice Marine could my favorite Hrrmessence (to date...?). I too hope he finds another outlet. If he just disappears I would be heartbroken.

    Please stay safe! I hope we hear more from you soon.

  4. Thank you for your thoughts, Eric. Nice, and now Turkey... and Brexit... these are trying times (that is, of course, an understatement).
    I love the way you describe that magnolia tree -- here in Paris there are few, so I can't really say I've "lived" the scent, but the hard-to-find Bourdon is definitely a beautiful, masterful piece of perfumery.
    And I agree with you about JCE's command of spices. From what he told me, he is absolutely continuing to compose, and Hermès is of course more than happy to put out more of his fragrances. Not entirely sure whether he is now at liberty to "publish" with other brands, as he is still a brand ambassador for Hermès. He's not the kind of man who'll blurt out something before he's entirely ready to say it!

  5. Thank you so much for your lovely list.
    I find it fascinating that so many of your choices originated from "blind-smelling"!! What a wonderful way to first experience a fragrance.
    I miss your writing, so it is always a joy to read your insights.

    1. Yes, I was surprised by the impact of that blind-smelling session (as a jury member for Olfactorama, I received anonymous decants). Especially since I'd protested it last year because blind is how we judge wine, not art (film, books, etc.): the author and intention do matter. Still, clearly, it's always a fruitful exercise. I actually used it a lot when I was teaching at the Summer School of ISIPCA.

  6. Night Blooming Cereus? We have that in abundance here and some people try to destroy every bit of it- I try to stop them, of course. It's a glorious flower. And pittosporum? I'm not terribly fond of it, but it has a strong pepper smell, yes? I can see that being useful in a perfume formula. And sharp, peppery smells are good these days, when we need to be awake and sensible, though sometimes we'd rather nod off and pretend the news wasn't real....

    1. Why should anyone want to destroy Night-blooming Cereus? Good on you for protecting them. I've never seen them in real life but they do look glorious indeed. As for pittosporum, I believe an extract exists (Michel Roudnitska mentioned it to me), but this is an accord. There may be different varieties: the ones I know smell like orange blossom's sluttier sister (almost all indole sometimes). I do agree about the need to pepper ourselves up these day! And I do so love the smell of pepper... There's a new Comme des Garçons coming out called Blackpepper, actually. Didn't want to mention it here because I've already got one fragrance in the list not coming out before September... Mind you, here in Paris we've been smelling a lot of pepper spray these past few months!

  7. Thanks for your summer post and well wishes to you, Denyse! Sadly we are having so many of our own problems in the U.S. I dread looking at the news.

    I had a chance to sample all three of the Eris perfumes recently and selected Ma Bête, though it was hard to choose between that and Night Flower.

    I'm especially looking forward to trying Queen of the Night. Duchaufour doesn't do that many soliflors, and I love what he did with tuberose in L'AP Nuit de Tubereuse. nozknoz

    1. Hi Nozknoz! Yes, the news in the US is deeply disheartening as well. Basically everywhere one looks, really...
      On a lighter note, I love Night Flower too (it's got kind of a Poison meets Shalimar thing going). And thank you for reminding of Nuit de Tubéreuse, it keeps slipping my mind because the bottle is in the perfume closet... It was one of B's first that I truly fell in love with (as opposed to admire). Hope the bottle hasn't gone bad!

  8. Sorry to be so late. More sadness in the news - it seems that there is another dreadful incident almost every day. You are right, though, in saying that we should take solace in appreciating the good things, and in that sense perfume can be so life enhancing.

    I am very pleased that you like the Pierre Bourdon. His eponymous line has been sadly under-publicised and already I think it has disappeared from the UK. I am the proud possessor of Sous le Magnolias, La Fin d'une Ete and La Dame en Rose and love them all, and especially admire their "vintage vibe" qualities.


    1. Hi Jillie. The Pierre Bourdon brand seems to come from Germany, it has had no press whatsoever here in France and there's just one point of sale. I just don't understand: what's the point of creating a brand and then letting it languish in such obscurity! Especially since it's so easy to promote the hell out of it as it's got a very legitimate backstory... Weird.

  9. Hello Denyse, can you tell if the new Blackpepper is some sort of a re-edit of CdG's previous Black, and/or what to expect? The short PR blurbs I've seen around so far sound promising. I assume that at least the perfumer is not the same, since I've seen some photos with Christian Astuguevieille and Antoine Maisondieu talking about Blackpepper to journalists etc.

    And thank you for this post, I always love reading your listings (and other stuff)!

  10. Hi, friends. I am lover of perfumes from indonesia one of the products that you have written to be my favorite. Hermes fovarit me and I do not want to be left behind by him.

    1. Welcome to Grain de Musc! I'm happy you enjoy the Hermès, I do too!

  11. Hi Mikael. Blackpepper is a different perfume entirely! I brought a decant with me during the holidays to test it and will report back.