vendredi 6 avril 2018

My Top 10 Scents of Spring: #NoFilter Frags & Witchy ‘Fumes

The stealthy one: 
You by Glossier
Glossier You couldn’t be more on-brand if it tried. The olfactory equivalent of those my-skin-but-better-enhancers – Guerlain’s Blurring active base is a current favorite -- that can make you hashtag #NoFilter with a straight face. I call them aura boosters. Plausible deniability perfumes. There’s just something about the limpidity of ambrette, the pastel tenderness of musk and earthy moistness of iris and violet that suits this wet, blustery Paris spring.

The arty one:   
Elevator Music by Off-White x Byredo
This is plausible olfactory deniability played as concept: scent as unobtrusive background hum. Ben Gorham and Virgil Abloh presented it in Paris along with an installation by Carsten Höller, an artist who uses smells in some of his pieces (but not here). Elevator Music is not only a collab’ on a capsule colleciton: “the project attempts to define the least amount of information needed to understand a product’s context and background”. That said, the scent itself is lovely, a water-gorged earth and violet note with a faint, singed-wood aftertaste. Combined with the name, it conjures a metal box filled with the sounds/smells – smounds. -- of mid-March forest. Just close your eyes, dear. It’ll be all right.

The chypre one: 
Le Cri de la Lumière by Parfum d’Empire
This one was in my last top 10, but it’s still in the rotation. And it’s made me realize that the ambrette-iris-musk accords that are having such a moment -- I had no trouble at all listing half a dozen new ones in a couple of minutes are actually fruity chypre structures. A fruity top note? Peary ambrette, especially bolstered with rose, fit the bill. Musk plays the role of the fleshy amber accords skewered upright by a woody vertical axis – iris. Great olfactory families never disappear: they just shift and drift on the olfactory map. And if you look well enough, you can tease out strands of Femme DNA, via Féminité du Bois.

The lush one: 
Niral by Neela Vermeire Créations
Bertrand Duchaufour couldn’t do wussy if he tried. Neela Vermeire never asks him to. With Niral, Mr. D. takes a break from the boozy woods his clients can’t seem to get enough of, and adds a lush variation to the iris and rose series he kicked off with Traversée du Bosphore. Here it is Indian tussar silk that is evoked rather than Turkish delight. The scent has the heft and variegated sheen to match its inspiration.

The bohemian one:  
Sur la Peau by Diptyque
So it turns out Olivier Pescheux has turned me on to musk. It’s never been my favorite olfactory theme, but the curry-green weirdness of angelica and the rootiness of carrot and iris give Sur la peau an earth-mama, back-to-nature vibe befitting a tribute to 1968, for Diptyques 50th anniversary as a perfume house.

The sexy one:
 À ce soir by Pont des Arts
Bertrand Duchaufour calls it a vanilla blossom, but to me, it brings together three scents that were summarily ejected from the L’Artisan / Penhaligon’s catalogue. Havana Vanille’s fresh tobacco leaf and rum chica-boom sensuousness, matched by the hay, honey and pollen-dusted daffodil of Ostara (though the green here is more sap than hyacinth), with a dash of Amaranthine’s lush ylang-ylang. It’s pretty much got my heart in a love-lock. Who knew I’d fall for vanilla?

The glam one: 
Bloom by Gucci
No true Love Witch should be without her fresh batch of tuberose. In Alberto Morillas’ delightfully neo-90s Gucci Bloom, the bitchiest flower of the perfumer’s organ engages in a spot of bondage with the Rangoon Creeper.

The bubbly one:  
Oak moss shower gel by Arket
The bath and body line by H&M’s upmarket brand Arket kicked off with Vetiver and Oak moss, bless their Scandi-chic hearts. Signed by Jérôme Épinette of Robertet and Byredo fame, the brine-tinged, water-gorged Oak moss shower gel leaves you smelling like you’re about to be foraged and locavored at René Redzepi’s Noma 2.0.  

The bitchy one:  
Damn Rebel Witches by Reek
There’s something exhilarating about this scent, and it’s not just the gin, blood, peat and smoke brew whipped up by indie perfumer Sarah McCartney for Sara and Molly Sheridan, the mother and daughter team who founded Reek. And it isn’t just because the artisan, feminist, vegan, queer-friendly and cruelty free Edinburgh-based brand ticks all the right boxes. It’s the sheer fun and energy of it all. It’s the laying claim to bitches and witches, to dirty hands, to cheeky stickers, and stretch marks and tats and the shriek of Reek. I am totally getting that Bitches Unite tee-shirt. And I’m seriously considering flying to Edinburgh to get it. The witches have promised me a reeky, brilliantly bitchy good time. 

For more spring round-ups, click on to Bois de Jasmin (up on Monday) and Now Smell This

Illustration: detail of an installation for Fleur de Peau by Diptyque

vendredi 26 janvier 2018

My top scents for surviving winter (you must believe in spring)

Between colder-than-Mars Canada, thank-God-for-Gore-Tex Paris, and the Doomsday Clock moving forward again, I just want to hunker down with dark, fusty, cozy scents until such time as I can poke my nose outside... Perfume is a way of breathing.

Ambrette, northern lights and goose down
Iridescent, crystal-clear as chilled pear alcohol, yet musky-soft, the hibiscus seed is having a moment, its facets polished with iris, rose and pear, in with Parfum d’Empire’s soaring chypre Le Cri de la Lumière and Zadig & Voltaire’s ethereal La Pureté, by the peerless Michel Almairac, in their new Scent Library collection. Alternative choices: the more easily-sourced, adamantine Chanel N°18 or the rarer Eau Aztèque by Olivia Giacobetti for Iunx, the precursor of the ambrette solinotes in 2003.

Hibernating in patchouli
Burrowing deep in humus and earth, rolled up in a ball, waiting for spring… Dear Rose’s Comme une Fleur by Fabrice Pellegrin improbably combines uncut, hippie patchouli and orange blossom to evoke the strength of flower pushing through earth to come to light. Daniela Andrier’s deeply weird Une Amourette for État Libre d’Orange skews the same accord by boosting the indole and spiking her funky patchouli with Akigalawood, a sci-fi Givaudan material that mutates patchouli into a pepper-and-earth note.

The bitter comfort of dark chocolate
Cocoa absolute is surprisingly funky, a cruelty-free substitute for animal materials (my cat reacts to it as she does to castoreum) and an intriguing shift along the olfactory map that leads to patchouli or vanilla. I’ve been sating my dark chocolate cravings with my decant of Mathilde Laurent’s VII- L’Heure Défendue in Cartier’s “Les Heures de Parfum” collection, a liqueur-smooth wedding of the bean and the beast. By Kilian’s Noir Aphrodisiaque, a Paris exclusive composed by Calice Becker and genius chocolatier Jacques Génin, brings a more floral twist to the cocoa-patchouli accord: a sip of jasmine tea melting a square of cinnamon-laced dark chocolate (it’s getting hot in here). 

Part of my all-time winter rotation, Arquiste’s Anima Dulcis melds the Aztec bean with unsweetened vanilla, chili pepper and a Prunol-ish, chypre vibe that somehow makes it the distant Latino relative of Serge Lutens’ Arab-by-way-of-Tokyo Féminité du Bois, a major matrix of contemporary perfumery.

Now to post this before the Seine runneth over and wets my toes…

For more Winter top 10s, please visit Bois de Jasmin, Now Smell This, Perfume Posse and TheNon-Blonde.

Illustration: this steampunk Death Star was my view from the window of my room in the Queen Elizabeth hotel. It's actually the dome of the Montreal Cathedral.

As a bonus, Gene Kelly's exhilarating riffing on Michel Legrand in Jacques Demy's Les Demoiselles de Rochefort.