OBSESSION: : : LUMIERE D’AMBRE by LAURA MERCIER (2013)

 

 

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It was somewhat inevitable that the first perfume I should buy while back on holiday to my homeland and hometown should be something rich, delectable and full of amber. My first ever perfume love, and it was more than love, was Obsession For Men, and its delectably suffocating progenitor, Obsession. I was seventeen or eighteen, eager to smell as many perfumes as I could get my hands on, and had never smelled anything like them. Up until then, all had been crisp fresh citrus with mossy undertones like Chanel Pour Monsieur or Armani Pour Homme: scents I enjoyed and which suited me, but which were nothing like the full on coup de foudre of discovering an oriental that made me swoon with pleasure and which did, quite literally, obsess me.

 

Both Obsession and Obsession For Men have been reformulated, obviously, and they now have none of their original creme brûlée, skin hugging  gorgeousness. Both are also quite vilified by perfumistas: The Perfume Dandy once did the most hysterical and vicious review you can imagine – which I loved actually – and I understand perfectly why he would find these perfumes cheap and nasty, cloying, and unpleasant to the nose.

 

 

To me though,  they were anything but. A girl would enter a taxi on a night out, the mandarin orange top notes of the perfume soaring viscously up through the spiced amber and vanilla and I wanted to consume her, just start drinking from her neck like a crazed vampire I found the perfume so heady and dizzying and gladdening; at that time, the scent was perfect, and to me, something entirely, entirely new. And then I was given a reprieve from dressing like a ‘monsieur’ when Calvin Klein then released a quite similar perfume, just more oakmoss and cinnamon, for the men’s market, meaning I didn’t have to feel embarrassed buying it, that it was sanctioned, and that no one would judge me for spending all my hard earned money from part time jobs on the eau de toilette, the deodorant stick, the talc, the soap, and the liquid body talc, which was a marvellous creation that I would just stand naked in the afternoon light of my university room and pour all over my body like a sun god.

 

 

I was quite literally famous for that perfume. You could smell it four floors down as you entered the college staircases, apparently, the lingering powder motes of Obsession gracing the stairwell and announcing my ridiculously operatic presence if you walked up the four flights of stairs. I would be mummified in the perfume as a bonbon: perfume and dusted, delectable smelling and smothering; I suppose in a way this was my coming out, in more ways than one, a liberation in many ways that I celebrated in scent and which presaged my love of orientals such as Shalimar, Vol De Nuit (which I consider  a predecessor of Obsession – no, really, while that sublime creation is naturally more noble and mysterious, there is still a green tinge and oakmossy aspect to both perfumes that marks them as relatives), and the beautiful Heritage eau de parfum, which has one  of the most skin suckable dry downs I have ever personally experienced.

 

 

And this Lumiere D’Ambre, by Laura Mercier, a purveyor of some of the most sickly sweet perfumes ever made (many of her confectionary concoctions just go way too far in the diabetically bulimic sphere of scent for me: all cakes and ice creams and candy bars that make you want to clutch your front teeth), is a glorious remembrance of all the ambers of my youth. It is Obsession and Heritage rolled into one; a black pepper top note that renders it androgynous, and then all that mandariny loveliness melting into dense, sensual amber but with enough lightness (hence the name)  – provided by jasmine and orchid – to never make the scent feel asphyxiating the way that some of the heavier ambers can. No, this dances on the skin, or eiderdowns itself into my clothes like a protecting wall of familiarly oriental goodness. I don’t know why, but some of the perfumes that I have bought with me in my suitcase just feel wrong. I am not in the mood for aloofness or perfumes that are scary: the poignant emotions stirred up by seeing all my relatives and walking around all my old stomping grounds; the park where I would walk on the way to school, the coming in late at night and treading quietly on the carpet so as not to wake up my parents, it is all like being submerged back into my past in a way I find emotional and simultaneously troubling (as if your current existence had been semi-erased and you were plunging back into your childhood and adolescence.) And so somehow I feel protected from the more piercing memories by wearing a new scent that is different enough to feel like a stimulating new purchase, a scent that is right up my street with its simplicity and lack of pretentiousness, but which still, undeniably, takes me back to those virulent first days of my perfume obsession, when I first truly understood the glorious power that a scent – one that overwhelmed my young soul and thrilled me to the core – could have over me.

 

 

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AN OPULENCE: : : : : ‘SECTION D’OR’ de SERGE LUTENS………CRACHEUSE DE FLAMMES + CANNIBALE + HALEINE DES DIEUX + SIDI BEL ABBES + RENARD LE CONSTRICTOR (2015)

 

 

 

 

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It was something of a relief to escape from the chemical confines of Boots The Chemist (exactly the same nose horror as Amsterdam Schiphol) and, before getting the train back to my parents’ house, having a quick, cursory sniff around Birmingham Selfridges.

 

I was dismayed at my having fallen away by the wayside in my knowledge of the most current niche brands, however – quite a few new groove houses that I had never even heard of – but pleased to encounter, finally (as they have not yet crossed the sea to Tokyo and probably never will), the niche-within-niche collection of Serge Lutens, The Section d’Or.

 

It was inevitable that such a spendy quintet should emerge. With the exponential gap between high street and exclusive getting ever wider in price and scope, the original set of Serge Lutens was starting to look curiously cheap. These new perfumes are most certainly not, but before we get to all that, let’s see how this exotic assemblage actually smells.

 

With provocative names such as Cannibale and Renard Le Constrictor we can be forgiven for perhaps expecting big, outrageous olfactions that will re-establish the Lutens/ Sheldrake collaboration as a creative fragrance force to be reckoned with. Instead, while all  are good in their own way and I would possibly even consider wearing two (which, in this age of unappealing muck is gargantuan praise coming from me), only one strikes me as going out slightly on a limb and breaking new ground for the house, while the others are somewhat denser rewordings of familiar themes.

 

 

 

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To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a full on amber release from this house since the classic Ambre Sultan (2000), which is a perfume I have worn myself with its rich, effulgent apothecary of a sultry, but which has gradually become meek and attenuated in its far blander, recent reformulation. Cannibale takes up a similar theme but with an emphatic celeriac/ fennel note, plus a more macho-ish, almost Axe body spray streak underneath that I consider offputting but which could definitely work as a manly, ambrish hybrid. Not deserving of a cannibal though, who would surely smell effortlessly more monstrous, and/or seductive.

 

 

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‘L’Haleine Des Dieux’ or Breath Of The Gods, is more appealing to me. A smoother, more quietly rapturous and wearable Ambre Sultan, but without the quirky, and to me, slightly unpleasant herb/spice dustish facets that I never truly liked in Sultran toned right down, alongside a fresher, more floral /citrus undertone that makes the perfume more seamless and luminescent. I could wear this, definitely, as a straight amber, even if in truth I have to declare that it contains nothing divine.

 

 

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Sidi Bel Abbes is the most conventionally masculine scent that the Lutens house has ever produced. It is an interesting hybrid of East and West tropes, combining dense dark Arab conventions that remind me of an afternoon I once spent in an Arabian perfume shop in Kuala Lumpur’s China town, and a hairy, eighties sexuality that smells like Naples circa 1982. I can’t say I like this exactly, as it is almost brutishly smooth and hair-oiled – leering – yet at the same time, if the right (preferably Middle Eastern, hirsute hunk) were to approach me with some of this sprayed on his thighs and upper torso (and no deodorant),  I can’t say definitively that I could actually resist.

 

 

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Far more up my own street personally is Cracheuse De Flammes, or Flame Spitter, which is a beautiful rose jammy raspberry licked foreshow of a coral pink perfume that smelled perfect on my skin ( I kept sniffing and sniffing), with a quite gorgeous throw and crystalline demeanour; a kaleidoscope of fruit flower and spices with a soap creamy underthrow  whose nearest recognisable relatives in the Serge Lutens canon would probably be Fille De Berlin and Vitriol D’Oeillet, but more appealing to me than either, mainly because it does what I like best in a perfume – namely become, eventually, a moreish and delectable skin scent (despite the name this is a very homely comforting dry down, clean and floral), while stimulating the mind and senses in the opening light diffusing salvos. Bravo  – except for the price. I was quite genuinely stunned to hear the sales assistant coolly say £480, when I had been expecting at most half that. Much as I like the scent, it simply doesn’t merit such a tag in my view: the difference in luxuriousness and inventiveness between this range and the ‘standard’ one is not so noticeable as to necessitate such a huge luxe chasm. Still, if you have that sort of cash to spare and like optimism-drenched rose scents, this jammy little charmer is worth a splash.

 

 

 

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As is Renard Le Constrictor, a silky, alluring and peculiar orange blossom violet somewhere in the Indianish ballpark of Guerlain’s Insolence eau de toilette: lurid, heady and possibly quite hypnotic on the right person who wants a perfume that is a touch left field and out of the ordinary, something striking . Duncan hated it immediately, but then he would , as a confirmed detester of orange blossom in any form (which today he memorably described as ‘residual hormones in a bathroom’ – and I know what he means, even if I remain more open and persuadable on the neroli  and orange blossom front). Compared to the original flirty, citric room-opener Fleurs D’Oranger,though, this is quite plummy and mysterious, serpentine even, which, given some of the bland and uninspired recent releases from Monsieur Lutens, gives us hope that there is still some imagination and sensual exotica left in the old fox yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IRONIES : : MUGUET PORCELANE d’HERMES (2016) (and some other new releases)

 

 

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I am now safely ensconced at my parents’ house in England after a rather gruelling flight from Japan via Amsterdam, and a stopover at the reeking Duty Free of Schiphol airport.

 

God it was vile.

 

The stench. The uncouth, chemically cheap unpoetry of it – the vulgarian slop. And the irony: the great perfume lover, wanting to get up to date, but hating the smell of all the ‘perfume’ (these inverted commas strictly necessary), to the extent that he was not only unable to muster any enthusiasm for any of the nose-searing atrocities, but not even capable of being near it.I had to retreat to a corner of the airport and an art museum cafe to regain my bearings.

 

 

 

 

Ugh. 

 

 

 

I suppose this extreme reaction is partly due to the fact that Japanese airports, while still polluted with the likes of Coco Madamoiselle and its insidious chemical warfare patchoulis (you will never comprehend how much I detest that perfume), are not full of such billowing gusts of offensively concocted aroma chemicals that you get a headache from the moment you come out of customs, an olfactive ten max volume that would floor most Japanese people and leave them unconscious on the carpet. ‘Men’s Fragrances’ (god, HOW did we get to this point?!) that get worse and worse all the time, the same variant, the same sports smell, the same, Axe spray macho olfactory horror that makes me wince every time a ‘man’ walks by me and I just think ape. ape. ape, continually (though two scents I encountered, Prada L’Homme and Kenzo Totem at least seemed to  be trying something at least vaguely different); ‘women’s’ ‘fragrance’ that are ALL, virtually bar none, now variations on the sickly, sickly Flowerbomb cheap vanilla theme, but much much worse. ‘Black Opium’: VILE! Poison Girl. VILE! Every other perfume. VILE! Even the new Angel Muse, had, seeing that it was the originator of this candy floss ethyl maltol craze, ironically gone the same route, caving in on itself and compromising and turning into yet another one of these crass, evil slag, fuckwits.

 

 

Exhausted, jet-lagged and ill, but with time to kill , I eventually came across the Hermes boutique and thought YES ! I can try the new Muguet Porcelane. That will give me some clarity and beauty. Or at least a change from the unchanging tropes. Plus, the Dutch sales assistant is virtually guaranteed to be more friendly and amenable than the cold snooty bitches in the Tokyo shop, who I have freely condemned before, and who deserve to be locked in giant refrigerators up to the last minute possible until they learn their lesson. And yes, as I anticipated, the lady was nice, but Jesus the perfume!

 

 

 

Blimey. Hats off I suppose to Jean Claude Ellena for making his swan song for Hermes a full on floral, both swooningly intense and unrepentant, and cunningly old and modern at the same time. Shame to my nose it smelled so damn repugnant though. I mean I was never much of a lily-of-the-valley man to begin with, so ignore me if you are a muguet madame who can’t get enough of this flower, but.

 

 

 

I enjoy Diorissimo on other people, and the D bought me a vintage Diorissimo cologne the other day that was quite intriguing, but generally speaking I prefer this flower note muted and cold like Caron’s Muguet or Muguet De Bonheur or simply not at all. This new, quite bizarre interpretation of those strange little white May bells is like a mutant version of lily of the valley emerging Godzilla-like, and roaring, from the jungle. It is huge (at least thirteen metres high); it is animalic; it is musky and old fashioned, yet the giant lily of the valley bells come clanging from the undergrowth blaring in tandem with gargantuan  melons  – melons with teeth and eyes that open forth and split, and start immediately rotting, menacingly, on the forest floor. Yes, melon. And not the elegant, decadent melonic notes ingeniously employed by Roudnitska in Diorella or Parfum Therese; just a hint of my least favourite fruit to add some peculiar, dirty chic. No, we are talking MELON melon, right there in the funky, floral, melange, with some kind of civet like weirdness lurking underneath, and a smell for this tired traveller at that point in the day (or night? god knows) that was the straw that almost broke the camel’s back.

 

 

 

 

 

I could have puked.

 

 

 

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THE VEXING AND THORNY ISSUE OF HOW TO PRONOUNCE PERFUMES

 

 

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THE VEXING AND THORNY ISSUE OF HOW TO PRONOUNCE PERFUMES

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MY PRISTINE BEAU: VETIVER BABYLONE by ARMANI PRIVE (2008)

 

 

MY PRISTINE BEAU: VETIVER BABYLONE by ARMANI PRIVE (2008)

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I AM LOVE : : : : : MONA DI ORIO VANILLE (2011)

 

 

 

I AM LOVE : : : : : MONA DI ORIO VANILLE (2011)

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what is forgiveness?

 

 

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The fragrance that flowers give, when they are crushed.

 

 

 

 

(Sufi, C13th Persian mystic)

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