mercredi 16 mars 2011

First Loves Revisited: Idole by Olivia Giacobetti for Lubin

Since the inception of my virtual perfume life, few fragrances can actually bring back vivid memories: so many have succeeded themselves on my skin that unless something emotionally striking happens just when I’m wearing one, the Proustian effect has been disrupted. But there is one perfume that still has the flashback potential, because I bought it very early on in my online forays: in fact, it must have been the first I got because of the blogs.
Lubin Idole came into my life riding on a wind of words, its very perception altered by the stories developed around it. Alongside enthusiastic reviews of the scent by Bois de Jasmin 
and Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Légerdenez initiated a debate on the un-reflexive post-colonialist aesthetics of the bottle designed by Serge Mansau, an early and rare instance of placing the presentation of a scent within a social and political context. 

Of course, much of the buzz in the then-nascent online perfume community was owed to the author of Idole, Olivia Giacobetti, one of its stars from the outset: at the time, with cult products such as Premier Figuier, Passage d’Enfer and Dzing! for L’Artisan Parfumeur and her own Iunx brand, one of the first houses created by a perfumer, Giacobetti probably had the highest profile in the blogosphere. Since then, she has moved to New York and pulled a semi-Garbo: the only fragrances she’s signed recently are the two series for Honoré des Prés (by the way, the Dans l’Atelier de Cézanne candle she composed for the French artist Vincent Beaurin that I mentioned in my winter top ten will soon be available at Luckyscent, Vincent’s wife Sonia tells me). So Giacobetti’s name has been pushed back in the headlines, just as my bottle of Idole was quickly pushed to the back of the shelf by the mounting influx of new products. 

But there was another reason for Idole’s exile. When I got it, I had just embarked on what would prove to be the most ill-advised relationship in my life. At the time, I had been touched by the Brit’s comment that Idole smelled like a kissed should taste. Though booze wasn’t what made the relationship so disastrous, his comment may have reflected more on his previous booze-fuelled romantic experiences that on the scent itself…
It was thus with some misgivings that I retrieved my bottle of Idole from the shelf to spray it on. Thankfully, I’d moved on to other fragrances by the time things with the Brit went sour, so Idole didn’t. 

Though at the time Idole had shifted the predominant view on Giacobetti as a master of airy, ethereal fragrances, now it falls neatly into place within her corpus. The rum, combustible pepper and clove, caramelized sugar-cane notes, and smoky leather and sandalwood base speak of the fire that transforms aromatic materials into immaterial smoke, and Giacobetti, especially in her Iunx line, is indeed the perfumer of the immaterial, which gives a spiritual quality to some of her compositions. Rum itself is, literally, an ethereal note in the technical vocabulary of perfumery. But the sequence that links rum to wood by throwing saffron and bitter orange into the fire also ties Idole in with the spicy-balsamic gourmand register explored by Giacobetti in Safran Troublant, then more widely in her Iunx candles and now-discontinued body line, and lately in her rum-splashed Vamp à NY. In fact, Vamp à NY and Idole would be ideal his’n’hers fragrances: layering them, either through a skin-to-skin operation or a more traditional double-spritz, heats up the tuberose and fleshes out the woody-spicy smoke while the two scents bind through their common sweetness…
My tastes didn’t evolve towards woody, spicy scents, and I’m not sure Idole will become a standard in my rotation – I’ll probably douse it with a good dose of the Vamp to give it a dose of va-va-va-voom, or heat up the Vamp another notch. But I’m happy to note that Idole itself is just as good as I thought it when I first got it.

And now on to you. I’m sure you’ve been asked this question before, but have you recently revisited the first scent you bought because of the blogs? And how did that turn out?

Illustration: Juliet in Mud Mask, by Man Ray

43 commentaires:

  1. I'm pretty sure it was a partial bottle of vintage Miss Dior Eau de Toilette, with the houndstooth-check box, bought on fleabay for a whole lot less than what it would cost now! It was in good shape and smelled familiar, although I couldn't place where I'd smelled it before. I've worn it occasionally, although it's not in regular rotation.

    In general, I've had very good luck with perfume recommendations from the blogs.

  2. Olfacta, I'm pretty sure vintage Miss Dior was also an early acquisition, though at this point, sadly, the perfume has turned quite a bit...

  3. I think I was heavily influenced by the blogs when I bought Havana Vanille. I woe it a couple of times then put it away. I even thought about selling it. But recently I pulled it out again and wore it and I like it much better now than I did at first. I like the oily narcissus and the resins. I'm glad I kept it.

  4. Krista, it's strange isn't it when you expect something from reading reviews and then encounter something quite different? It then takes a while to deal with the fragrance on its own terms. Glad you kept the Havana Vanille: I'd be wearing it more if it weren't for all the testing. It's reconciled me with vanilla-centric perfumes.

  5. How weird! I was just thinking about Idole the other day.

    As for your question, to be perfectly honest, I think the answer is that I've NEVER bought anything because of blogs. But let me have a little think.

    --- time passes ---

    Hmm... The answer's still no.

    Oh dear, what does that say about me? I don't actually buy very much perfume, and I don't read many blogs... so I suppose I'm not the best person to answer the question.

    But I really like Idole!

  6. Persolaise, I was mainly thinking of the fact that all those things that made us go gaga five years ago have kind of disappeared... I'm the first to blame myself, since other blogs do cover "older" things. But Idole doesn't have a wrinkle on it.

  7. My first real perfume was Oscar by Oscar de la Renta. I bought it for myself from Dillard's or Belk's when I was in high school - probably in 99 or 2000? I wore it daily for years. I still always keep a bottle and it definitely is a flashback scent.

    Before that I wore Cover Girl Navy, which someone gave me as a gift once. I don't even know where I could buy that these days.

  8. Okay, so for the sake of not being a party-pooper, let me have a think about the perfume-y things that were making me go gaga 5 years ago...

    Dior Homme - which I still wear and love.
    YSL M7 - which I hardly ever wear now, because it's been messed around with.
    Gucci Pour Homme - which has been discontinued.

    So yes, you're right. The Dior's still around, but the other two are dodos... although, if you believe a recent thread on Basenotes, then the Dior's under threat too!

  9. I vividly remember the first time I googled :"Smells like.." and stumbled upon the NST blog.
    From there on it all went wrong (manner of speaking), my allready large perfume collection since then has grown to a size that would make a small drugstore uneasy.
    But that was not your question.

    The first perfume I bought unsniffed and very influenced by the blogs was Theorema by Fendi. I sprayed it once and thought : Oh,well, I could just as easily have rolled around in some vanilla and cinnamon cookies. I really didn't -and still don't- understand what all the fuss was about.
    I wore it last week because I had to see an impossible client with a sweet tooth who's on a diet. No, he didn't bite me, thank god.
    Theorema is back in my closet now on the top mistake-drawer where I don't have to see it.

  10. Persolaise, I believe formulas in mainstream scents are being tweaked absolutely constantly. Sometimes even three months after the launch. It just sometimes takes a while to show. Of course comparing a five-year-old bottle and a new one might not be a good criterion to judge is there's been a reformulation, especially since maceration processes are often cut short.
    I did write a while back that I considered Dior Homme to be a modern classic.

  11. Illdone, I remember reading a lot about Theorema and never getting round to trying it out, but it was definitely part of the blog culture canon.
    I'd be careful with those clients. How up to date are your rabies shots?

  12. Susan, was it the blogs that made you vary your "diet"? I'm not very familiar with the Oscar de la Rentas, I think being in France I didn't see them around much... Of course Serge had already conquered me back then so I only had eyes for him!

  13. I have only had the time to read the blogs and sample extensively since 2008, which coincided with discovering the LT-TS Guide. It was so comprehensive and so useful as a compass (it's much harder at the beginning to sort through the widely divergent opinions on the blogs) that it dominated my sampling until a year or so ago. Hence, it's basically too soon for me to be revisiting.

    In general, reviews and comments are a greater influence on what I choose to sample than on what I ultimately decide to buy. Nonetheless, given the shortage of time and skin for sampling, that's a powerful influence.

    And you've convinced me to retest my sample of Idole, which I'm finding more interesting than I remembered. ~~nozknoz

  14. Nozknoz, I find the influence plays not on the purchase of an actual bottle, but on the perception, at various levels (goes from "you say rum, all of a sudden I get rum" to "everyone's raving" so you go in favorably disposed, or not if you don't like the people raving).
    The words have an impact, and inform our perception. So it's interesting to let something rest for awhile, and use it to measure up the progress of one's tastes and perceptions (or lack thereof).

    Another thing is that extensive/intensive sampling is often an injustice to some pieces of work. That's why I'm not only rather slow in updating the blog, but getting slower! I and the perfume need time together.

  15. I tried a few things based on Luca Turin/ Tania Sanchez's first book. But I believe they may be my evil scent twins, because none of those worked out. Mauboussin's original, in particular, was an epic fail. GACK! (Nice bottle, though.)
    However, in the naturals department, I've yet to try or buy one I can't stand, and I've been very happy with most of them. The blogs have really helped me find some great artisanal perfumers, and my house bunnies prefer those scents as well. Except for Angel. They crave Angel. (the coumarin??)

  16. Marla, with me it's pretty much the opposite, I've never found an all-natural perfume that I could really crave wearing. Luca's original guide in French did drive me towards a lot of old and by-then forgotten classics like Tabu and Canoe.
    As for the cat, she's very open-minded, and seems to love a lot of things! But then, if she can read she's not saying.

  17. When I discovered the blogs I'd make note of anything that sounded worth smelling and I'd hunt it down. The blogs put words and text to my perfume passion and have been responsible for many a purchase, mostly successul.

    I remember a comment which read "I'd kill for a bottle of Farnesiana" and it haunted me. Eventually I (bloodlessly) got a decant of the extrait and although I never really wear it, somehow I still think of it as a treasure.

  18. Funkly, Farnesiana was something I discovered all on my lonely in the early 90s: you could say it's a bridge between Habanita and Une Fleur de Cassie, other great loves of mine. Treasure it indeed, there will no longer be the likes of it...

  19. my first blog-influenced buy was Dzing! so there we are, Ms Giacobetti again! I don't have to revisit it, because it is always on my rotation.

  20. What a fine exploration of a scent, including how the time and place you wore it can affect your feelings. I remembered Cait's discussion on Legerdenez as well. I worked through several decants before finally springing for a bottle, and I'm glad I bought it.

    My first blog-related perfume forays were driven by Mandragore and Mitsouko (there's a range!) and I still love and wear them both.

  21. Bee, good call then! Dzing has pretty much been a cult fragrance from the outset, hasn't it? And rightly so.

  22. March, at least you were consistent alphabetically, if not smelly-ly. When I bring up Cait's discussion in France I'm greeted with the Gallic shrug.

  23. Denyse, I agree with both points. I was very much affected by the group test and review of Vamp a New York that you organized, as well as the 7-day signature scent challenge that March organized. In the latter, I fell in love with BK Liaisons Dangereuses, which I'd previously sampled in haste and passed over summarily. Since then, I've tried to slow down my sampling in order to give each creation its due.

    It's a bit nerve-wracking, though: between the flood of new releases and IFRA, I worry that I'll overlook the perfume love of my life or that by the time I try something and decide I want a bottle, it will already have been reformulated or discontinued!

    I rely a lot on favorite blogs "scent twin" commenters to prioritize. I appreciate that you are selective in what you review and mainly review what you love (unless someone really deserves to be chastized on principle). ~~nozknoz

  24. Nozknoz, the two "operations" you quote, my "group-testing" of Vamp à NY and March's "7-day single scent", did indeed yield interesting results: a cross-border focus group by a scent-literate bunch of people on the one hand, the time to really focus on a perfume on the other...

    I'm reconciled with the fact that the "love of my life" may pass me by, but still sorry that I don't get enough time with each perfume that interests me, as I did before the whole blogging thing (I was already a flitter, but less so). As Frédéric Malle says, however much you're tempted, you just can't kiss all the pretty girls in the street!

    I was also thinking that I can only do what I enjoy doing as a writer with perfumes that give me a lot to read: when the talent of the perfumer and the story that unfolds in smells are rich.

  25. I love that Malle line! I shall definitely have to borrow it one day.

  26. Persolaise, I'll bet he got it somewhere else! We were discussing the choices you have to make when you're developing a perfume...

  27. Denyse, when I first discovered the blogs and a whole new world opened up, I made a LONG list of must-haves and took it to my local perfume shop. Most of it was niche and/or obscure so they were not available, but the store had just begun to carry Serge Lutens, and I fell in love with most of them on the spot. I bought Datura Noir and went back the very next week for Un Lys. I still love both of those fragrances!

    Fast forward about five years and I have become both a writer about perfume and an avid collector of vintage and other scents. Neither of these things would have happened without the blogosphere, especially since I have blogs like yours to read which educate me about perfume to a degree I never dreamed possible.

  28. Flora, thank you for your kind words. I often think about this waft of words that's pushed us all towards a new invisible world. Whatever else happens, that bit of beauty is ours.

  29. I bought Jolie Madame unsniffed because Angela at NST suggested it for work. It is a good work scent, true. I really can't make myself enjoy wearing it anymore, though I've tried. It reminds me of when I returned to work after the birth of my daughter. That only lasted two months. I don't know how working mothers do it!

  30. Carla, somehow that's a perfect story of a scent associated with a peculiar time of life and set of emotions... I'm sure Jolie Madame helped tide you over that heart-wrenching moment: it's got that kind of toughness. And Angela is one lady whose advice I'd follow anytime (blowing kisses at Angela if she reads this).

  31. The blogosphere has been very influential in my case, at least at the beginning, in prompting tests on various "hot perfumes"/"hot houses" of the time.
    Luckily or not, I never really fell for those hidden niche "gems", so I saved a lot of money, while smelling interesting things and learning bits of perfume vocabulary, and the basics about raw materials...
    As nozknoz says above, blog commenters with similar tastes have become more influential for me than the bloggers themselves!
    But I do remember my first blog-induced perfume lemming: Frangipani, by OJ.
    I eventually got a sample (actually a purchase), and felt a bit disappointed. I never bought a full bottle, but upon retesting the fragrance, I splurged on the body products recently. Robin's review was really tempting. And it raised my curiosity towards white florals - one of my favorite fragrant families- for which I am quite grateful!

  32. Zazie, I remember the buzz on the Ormonde Jaynes when I first stepped into blogland -- the sample kit was an early acquisition, and Ormonde Woman joined the collection at just about the time I got Idole. It's not getting rotation time, but then what is, these days? I should dig it out again...

  33. After stumbling across perfume blogs a couple of years ago, my first unsniffed purchase was Osmanthus by Ormonde Jayne. Still on rotation, I will never tire of it. However unsniffed is a risky business and Tauer's Maroc pour elle was a total scrubber unfortunately and found a new home.

  34. Sunsetsong, I remember buying L'Air du Désert Marocain unsniffed and sadly, it wasn't a good fit. No reflection on the quality of the scent, it's just that Andy uses an amber note I can't wear...

  35. I remember typing into Google the name of a perfume (might have been Mitsouko or Femme) and stumbling upon NST. From NST I learnt about Ormonde Jayne and down the rabbit hole I fell. This was 2006. I bought Ormonde Woman and wore it alot but unfortunately also at the time of the final collapse of a toxic relationship and I can now no longer wear it, the memories still hurt. But I gave away my bottle and I still enjoy smelling it on others and I am often thanked by non perfumista friends for the intro to OJ. The other one of hers I loved and can still sniff without distress is Frangipani. I am grateful to it as it showed me the White Flower Way :-) I need to revisit Idole as, despite a list of notes which would indicate otherwise, it failed to move me. But seeing as I love (after 30 mins) Vamp and can see the connection, further exploration is overdue. Nicola

  36. Nicola, it's true that many OJs share a common base and would be likely to remind you of Woman. I wore it at the *beginning* of a toxic relationship (is that hemlock note responsible) so that it doesn't conjure the horrors, but if it had, I'd have definitely gotten rid of it.
    Yes, re-try Idole: it's interesting to go back to it *after* Vamp.

  37. C'est moi, Legerdenez. Denyse, you read my mind as I've been reconsidering Idole again. When I wrote that piece, I felt very strongly about it. I still think what I wrote had some truth and that I gave credit to Giacobetti for creating a fine perfume. Others have also explored how ads position the consumer. Check one of my favorite books: Les Belles Images by Simone de Beauvoir. Since I wrote the Idole piece, I pursued analysis of power and race in other settings and let go of my fervent critique of Idole's marketing. I always liked the perfume and I even see the appeal of the bottle. And I'm a total slave to the rhythm, the ideal consumer who has purchased many a product due to ads, buzz, or reviews. Like fashion, writing is a way to try on personae and perspectives. That's what I was doing. Hope I'm not considered a PC killjoy among those of the Gallic Shrug. The Gallic Shrug sounds like a great new product to push on Americans who wish they could have that "je ne sais quoi." The easy sell of luxury goods to Americans has been a cash cow lo these many years.

    Yours ever from a cloud of Idole, in struggle, with myself, among other things.

  38. Cait, I'm so happy you dropped by! (blowing kisses across oceans and continents).
    "Like fashion, writing is a way to try on personae and perspectives": my thoughts exactly. And like perfume as well.

    The Gallic Shrug is a gesture that seems to strike visitors to France! I think because the immediate reference for that bottle is Picasso's exploration of "Art Nègre", and so, to the heroic era of modern perfumery... About which I'm sure much has been said and written. That's what people here get. There's still quite a lot of work to be done on the imaginary of the exotic and the Other in perfumery, as I pointed out in my post about oud. Let's say that I'm a lot more shocked to see a niche brand called a scent Burka. My sense of humor deserts me entirely at the point, and shoulders remain firmly in position.

  39. I recently came to perfume via the "naturals" (hippie essential oil stuff) because I thought I hated perfume, but now when I smell the things I liked then, they're muddy and don't develop.

    I love the blogs because they push me to try things I think I won't like, like white florals, and push me to make my sniffing vocabulary wider and more rich. Most of my close friends don't wear perfume, so the internet let's me hear from perfume-lovers who have all different tastes and histories. It might be more impersonal, but it's made me more thoughtful and adventurous!


  40. Heidi, you've pinpointed one of the reasons I have problems with naturals... when you 'come' from classic perfumery they're hard to get into. I'm glad you found, like we all did when we embarked in this blogosphere journey, that there were likeminded souls out there!

  41. Muscs Koublai Khan was one of the first perfumes I purchased because of all the breathless (and dirty) writing about it on blogs and perfume forums. Not what I expected, but definitely a first love!

    But it was Luca Turin's discussion of Vent Vert and Diorella in Perfumes: The Guide that reawakened my love for perfume and launched me into true obsession.

  42. Barbara, you could do a lot worse! It's a shame that Vent Vert is no longer what it used to be, though. After smelling the proper vintage version (in the square bottle) it's hard to go back.

  43. the first scent I bought because of blogs or more accurately makeupalley was Diva (terrible name) by Ungaro- and yes I still like it but I've never worn it out and about very much- it's very much a black dress perfume and i don't wear those as much as I'd like!