“When the last rays of sun have gone, the most intense fragrance is diffused. Jasmine, lily, and rose: many flowers in a powerful sillage unveil their mysteries once night falls. Inspired by those hours impregnated with floral particles, the Night Veils collection by Byredo offers a new perfume ritual.
A single drop on the skin of one of these three new concentrates is enough to diffuse the sensuality of each flower. Three Night Veils to envelop the allure of a rare elegance. The main theme of each composition, flowers of the night – jasmine, lily and rose – playing the sensory ranges. Yet, Night Veils are not monolithic vases. Like floral shrubs which take on the fragrances which surround them, each perfume gains character through subtle contact with other essences. ”
These, then, are the official press copy descriptions of the latest up and coming release by Byredo, a collection of full strength parfums due to launch at Harrods October Ist, and at Liberty and Selfridges as of Ist November.
To a floral perfume lover such as myself, I must admit they sounded, at least in theory, rather alluring.
Let’s look at how the perfumes smell – at least to me – in real life.
Notes: top – iris, carrot
heart – Egyptian jasmine absolute, black violet
base – osmanthus, vanilla infusion
The regrettably unstoppable candification of current perfumery continues: Guerlain continues to go down that (ultimately cheap and nasty) route, as do most of the most famous perfume houses, be they high street or niche: even Roja Dove has a new Aoud collection that includes such perfumes as Sweetie Aoud and Candy Aoud.
It seems what grown women now want, at least according to the current trends, is to smell like dumbasses: sweet, synthetic, and sticky – bye bye decollétage, hello to giant bazangas pushed up to the respiratory limit (sorry, I just read my first ever Jackie Collins novel on holiday – wow, such filthy trash, unputdownable – I had to get in that word she used here), but in any case, my contempt for such scents – be they Lancôme’s execrable La Vie Est Belle or the new ‘Decadence‘ by Marc Jacobs, is, like cheap coffee, bottomless – my loathing just goes on and on.
Byredo’s Midnight Candy is no way near as bad as some of these busty, sucrose pallbearers: for a start it costs 325 pounds (over five hundred dollars), for a 30ml bottle of ‘parfum’, so the perfumer(s) involved may have been able to get their hands on a few more half-decent ingredients. Just.
This scent is not anywhere near as jasminesque, though, as the copy above would lead you to believe (see my jasmine guide for some real killer jasmines: this is a note I adore and I am obsessed with). Still, the tension between the sultry and slightly pissy Egyptian jasmine absolute in the top notes – quite nice, if short-lived – with the osmanthus and vanilla-coated ‘black violet’ in the heart of the scent, does indeed lead to some saucy thoughts. There is an almost Samsara-like thickness, a brief allusion to Caron’s (far superior) Aimez Moi from I997- also a dense and sweet sugared violet, but for city decadence, a fetishized supermodel – pressed white undies caught in the act of micturation – I would much rather go for Tom Ford’s more shocking Urban Musk.
REINE DE NUIT
Notes: top – black currant, saffron
heart – midnight rose, incense
base – patchouli, black amber, ambrette
A solid, but pointless, rehashing of the oudh/rose/blackcurrant trope, there is no real need for me to describe this perfume to you as you have smelled it hundreds of times before. The patchouli/incense/synthetic oudh / fruit accord is competently rendered and works well enough, but there are nowhere near enough quality rose oils used in the scent to justify its price tag (is there, in fact, any rose in the perfume at all? )
Rose perfumes can be gorgeously luscious and enveloping, regal, exciting, but here, whatever rose there may be in the blend is immediately absorbed by the harsh woody chemicals that too many niche perfumes rely on as the main substance of their perfumes these days. Some of the expensive natural rose absolutes I have encountered at shops selling high quality essential oils – rose otto, Turkish, Bulgarian, CO2 extraction – practically stop you in your tracks when you smell them – your body reacts – lymphatically – even before your mind does.
‘Reine De Nuit’, a deadened rose perfume, does nothing of the sort – you merely sniff the scent; glaze over; and head towards the sink.
top : black plum, wild gardenia
heart: carnation, Indian tuberose
base: palissandre wood, honey
There are plenty of good niche lily perfumes on the market, ranging from the pungent and overwhelming to the chaste, but, sadly, Casablanca Lily isn’t really one of them. I don’t actively dislike this scent by any means, and it is probably my favourite of the three perfumes described here, but to me, Casablanca Lily unfortunately simply doesn’t amount to very much.
There is a slighty eighties, soapy, neo-Anaïs vibe in the top notes and, in the base notes, a greyer, musky, under-breath, quite nice in a way, though again, as with the other perfumes, the flowers are not ever allowed to shine let alone breathe (something I often find in Byredo perfumes, actually – it seems that I am just destined not to get along with this brand – although I don’t mind, entirely, their vanilla flower venture Seven Veils, or Pulp, the fruitiest scent ever made, for comedy purposes). Somehow there is always something so harsh – Black Saffron, Baudelaire are good examples, or else painfully artificial about the perfumes ( see mendacious ice maidens La Tulipe and Inflorescence for instances of this) that I just can’t personally abide: some life-sucking force, like the young vampires in the Swedish Film Let The Right One In, that, rather than evoking a lyrical and heady midnight garden, suggests a flower killer, someone who secretly harbours a desire to rid the world of all its blomma and to replace them with man-made chemicals.
I have just returned back to Japan from a wonderfully stimulating and energizing trip to Laos and Vietnam (which you may already have read about on here with all its ups and its downs), but the experiences we had in both countries were intensely colourful and memorable, even if now, here at my house in Kamakura, I must admit that am also rather enjoying the tranquillity after the overwhelming hubbub that was Hanoi.
As the trip drew to a close, on the return journey from Laos’ capital Vientiane, to Hanoi, I had a quick peruse, as all tired perfumistas do, no matter what their misgivings and cynical expectations, of the perfumes at Wattay International Duty Free. Oh go on then, might as well, I thought.
It seemed to me yet again though that things really are getting worse and worse and worse in commercial ‘fragrance’ each time I do this, in terms of quality, originality and artistry. I genuinely do believe that most such perfumes are shit – no better than bathroom cleaners and probably cost as much to make; they are just packaged in pretty bottles. I could hardly find one decent scent among them and found the experience frustrating and depressing. Where does it go from here?
Back in Hanoi, on the penultimate night, we decided to go shopping for souvenirs down one of the most interesting streets of The Old Quarter, and we came across a really lovely craft shop featuring work by local artisans where we bought some teas, Vietnamese objets and other appealing trinkets for ourselves and for other people, including, to my delight, in the corner of the shop ( I almost didn’t see it) a most delicious perfume: Ylang Lan Tay by Lamha, a ‘fragrance oil’ that clearly contains huge amounts of intoxicating high grade ylang ylang essential oil, blended, I would say, with some natural sambac jasmine and coconut oil, so heady that when the assistant was packaging all our things up she had a slightly delirious look on her face and kept saying what a beautiful smell it was (I don’t think you were supposed to open the bottle before buying but I had to and am naughty, so it’s quite possible she had in fact never smelled it before). Her reaction to the scent, as it escaped from the confines of its glass bottle, said it all, though. She was also smelling it on me. I had just a dot of the perfume on each wrist, and was inhaling and enthusing over its rich sweetness and undeniable similarities to Annick Goutal’s Songes (almost like an extrait de parfum of that fine and beautiful floral classic in oil form ), no doubt in my mind that I would have to buy it immediately.
Gorgeous. I will treasure this one. Keep it for best. A scent I will use sparingly on its own, or in tandem with other scents, when I am in the mood for a heavy floral fix, a real night-breathing garden.
And though expensive by local standards (everything in that shop was more highly priced than all the tat in the tourist shops surrounding it), like all the other things available there, hand made and well designed and crafted, it was also most definitely worth the money. This is a perfume, a real floral perfume: one that gets you in the brain, the nose, the heart, and the limbic system. And, at ten dollars, it was a total steal.