Category Archives: Patchouli

MONSIEUR by EDITIONS DE PARFUMS FREDERIC MALLE (2015 )

 

 

images-6

 

 

 

Alfonso de Portage, race car driver, and one of the inspirations for ‘Monsieur’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gianni_Agnelli_portrait

 

 

 

 

 

Gianni Agnelli, industralist, another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tumblr_mqh1zfZicd1r1p7nfo1_1280.jpg

 

 

 

 

Mark Birley, playboy billionaire: and yet another.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Manly and elegant… the formula, both simple and essential, has evoked, since its genesis, remorseless seducers who would playfully flit from women’s embraces to social merrymaking’.

 

 

 

Indeed. On smelling Editions De Parfums’ latest release, Monsieur, these are exactly the feelings that are conjured up in your mind’s eye: of a man who means business. The ad, featuring a tailored, bespoke suit sleeve just covering a very obviously expensive Swiss made watch, is very Bond: every detail just so; sleek, jaw-clenched; very narcissistically self-aware.

 

Much has been made of this new perfume’s extragavant usage of patchouli  – Monsieur is supposedly to patchouli what Carnal Flower is to tuberose – which the promotional materials claim has not been used at such a high dosage (50% of the formula) since the 1970’s: presumably a reference to the patchouliest of classic masculines – Givenchy Gentleman (one of my favourite perfumes of all time, incidentally –  a delightfully hirsute, but effortlessly elegant patchouli leather) on which which this modern competitor is apparently doing an exclusive penthouse riff.

 

 

And it is quite effective. Opening with an almost disconcertingly sharp mandarin note bathed in rum , the clear, refractionated patchouli essence of the perfume soon makes its sensual  presence felt: very taut, and very polished, while presently, more trouser-heavy, carnal notes of musk, amber, amber and vanilla make their presence in the base as our protagonist begins to feel a bit restless and horny at the end of his long and impeccable business day . You can almost smell his later conquests here, with a bodily, more intimate aspect laid bare under the overall patchouli frame: yet another successfully accomplished seduction at some private members’ club, the creme de la creme of his upper echelon, socially stratospheric, quiet brutality (think Michael Fassbender in Steve Mcqueen’s tale of passionless sex addiction, ‘Shame’).

 

 

 

 

 

504289343_1_tabletop

 

 

 

I can imagine this fragrance being quite a big hit for Frederic Malle. Though apparently boasting more patchouli in its construction, this is used more thoughtfully and judiciously than the trowel-it- on, bucketload indigestibility of the hodgepodge patchoulis by Tom Ford or Christan Dior, which plug themselves up ungraciously with synthetic ambers and everything in-the-kitchen-sink to create real nose bombs that I personally cannot at all abide: too brash, sweet, and unharmonious (at least to my own very oversensitive nose). Monsieur is undoubtedly more ‘classy’ and has a definite quiet stealth in its overall construction, which the remorseless seducer that the perfume is intended for will undoubtedly use to his advantage.

 

 

 

The inherent problem with this perfume for me though is that is has little soul. If androids ever become a reality in the future, a few spritzes of Monsieur on the Italian bespoke suit and about the crotch area would certainly make the artificial intelligence seem more humanistic (and undeniably masculine). But that’s about as far as it goes, and I think the source of this sense of something amiss lies in the kind of basic materials that are being used: the perfumer, Bruno Jovanovic, like many perfumers using patchouli in a modern context, uses a particular form of the essence obtained by molecular distillation (‘to purify it in the extreme to turn it into the key link in the evaporation chain’) in order to make a smoother and less fuzzy variant. And I can definitely see how this would work: patchouli is known to have perhaps the lowest evaporation rate of all the essential oils in aromatherapy, which is precisely why it is so insistent, persistent, and long enduring  (and why so many people hate the stuff). It thus makes sense, from the perfumer’s point of view, to use a more purified, streamlined version of the smell that will blend more effortlessly with the other notes and give the composition lift and clarity. For me, though, as I have written before, the very earthiness and complexity of patchouli oil, its soil like darkness, is where its beauty lies. These neutered patchoulis are missing the point in my view: it is like draining the indoles and disturbingly erotic elements in white flowers such as jasmine, gardenia lilies and tuberose, or syphoning off the dirty-skin velvetness of other basenotes such as labdanum, benzoin or costus; the hairshirt compromised pleasures of  decaffeinated coffee, or dealcoholized wine.

 

 

There is, of course, a place for experimentation with aroma materials, to contemporize them and make them feel newer and fresher in the latest contexts. But for a bitter orange/ mandarin patchouli accord you are so much better off going with Micallef’s under-discussed, but very beautiful Patchouli, with its intimations of Campari and late night trysts, or for a really classical but very masculine, pulsating hard-on patchouli, Lorenzo Villoresi’s brilliant version of natural patchouli leaves: a midnight-dense, beautifully composed creation that, rather than setting out on a day or an evening of seductions and conquests, doesn’t even have to try.

15 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Patchouli

FIVE SWEET INDULGENCES: ANIMA DULCIS by ARQUISTE (20I2) + L’HISTOIRE CHARNELLE by CREATIONS HUBERT MAES (2007)+ CARA by FARMACIA SS ANNUNZIATA + GOTHIC II by LOREE RODKIN (20I3) + NOIR TROPICAL by MARIA CANDIDA GENTILE (20I3)

FD-85wm

A strange thing has happened to me. I have gone off vanilla. And although I think I can trace the moment this happened (and some of you were there with me), it still kind of shocks me, having spent the most beautiful holiday of my life two summer ago on a vanilla plantation in Java, swooning with vanilla suffocation in the upstairs drying room as the beans gave off their woozy, heady smell, gazing at awe at the vines; and more than half a lifetime of being swathed in vanilla-based, sweet and orientalic perfumes. (me sneaking out at dawn with a shaky iPhone, to take a short video of the exquisite environs of our little cabin (Duncan is curled up asleep inside) : Durian fruit, coffee trees, and papaya – which you can’t see –  but most of all snaking vanilla vines climbing up trees; workers in fields, and me in a state of in-the-moment bliss)

*

I think that the Vanilla Talk I gave at Perfume Lovers London last spring just probably took me (and the collected audience) somehow over the edge (“I’m in a vanilla coma” said one attendee”), like a heroin user blowing his synapses with his final hit, or an alcoholic teetering over his own mental brink with his final bottle of Dewars. There was so much vanilla, what with my preparations and selections leading up to the event, to sampling and appraising various different parfums vanillés ad nauseam, to reading up on tons of vanillic historical and agricultural facts, that by the time the night was over and the air was replete, claustrophobed, and stinking with sweet, sticky perfumes that were being sprayed left right and centre during the talk itself (along with the savouring and appreciation of different vanilla bean varietals: Tongan, Tahitian, Indonesian, Indian…) and all the spraying of samples into little vials for people to take their vanilla fix home, that the sheer sensory overload, not to mention the volume of nervous terror that had preceded my first ever public speaking (I think it is probably more this, actually: that connection, in my subconscious: although I really got into my stride and eventually enjoyed it, meeting people and letting my passions show, my natural extrovert coming to the fore, before everyone arrived I was possibly more nervous than I ever have been in my entire life and was practically ready to hurl myself from the window. If Helen hadn’t been there to sort me out I think I might have). Perhaps this sheer adrenaline overdrive, anxiety, all compressed within the potent, deep brown sweetness of vanilla, was the catalyst that took my feelings for this beautiful substance from love and ease to quease.

I haven’t been able to wear it since.

noir-pic

A perfume such as Maria Candida Gentile’s Noir Tropical, then, which I discovered at a trendy Shibuya shop along with four or five of the Arquiste range yesterday as we walked in a sun-filled daze after a hedonistic night in Shinjuku, just isn’t quite right for my current sickly-averse mindset, even if a deeper part of my brain stem is still instinctly drawn towards anything with the word ‘tropical’ in it (I was imagining some kind of dark, pineapple-permeated fug). In fact, this is a very well made, natural-bean scent with a pronounced sweet and tipsy rum and sugar cane note running underneath a sublimated almond interior, wafting for hours on the skin, with some vague similarities to Vanille Absolument/Havana Vanille by L’Artisan Parfumeur only more organic; rich; densely packed. There is definitely a sweating, hidden- histories-of-the-southern-seas aspect to this scent I can imagine enjoying this on someone else, but for the reasons I have already explained above, I just can’t go there at the moment.

21102

Some perfumes, particularly of the classical, ‘Golden Age’ school, are complex, gradated and layered, almost like symphonies or chamber works with different movements and emotions concealed within themselves only to be released, delicately, at a later hour. The modern niche aesthetic is often more of an ‘instant hit’ – what you see is what you get- even when the ingredients are of the highest quality. A Rothko block of dense colour rather than an dappling Impressionist painting: a potion or elixir, an accomplice. And although I sometimes miss the great pointillist balance of classical perfumery (the pure genius involved in controlling such a panoply in a way to make it sing), I also just enjoy a really good smell, if you know what you mean; a dot of deeply concentrated scent that you can just put on your skin, live with , and enjoy as it accompanies you throughout your day.

Loree Rodkin’s Gothic II and Farmacia Annunziata’s Cara are of this breed – rich, pleasing smells that will work if you like unadorned gourmand simplicity. Though the word gothic usually signifies something shadowed, sinister, vehement, Gothic II is anything but: it is homely, comforting, trustworthy, and easy. A deep patchouli heart (with both Indian and Tunisian essences,) is fused with rich Madagascar vanilla in the familiar, blocked, manner, although the addition of nag champa, incense and cloves produces a more overall effect of honey, an effect that continues for a long time on the skin until the patchouli and vanilla again come to the fore. What is good about this scent is that there are no rough or unpleasant edges detracting from the core theme, which, though a touch unimaginative and simplistic for me, is nerve-numbing, consoling, and potentially addictive.

. cara

Cara is much lighter: a mere trifle, really, but if you like your almond and vanilla mixed together in one blend, this works nicely as a very light and airy-sweet mood enhancer, with a talcum caramel heart and fresher, almost sport-fragrance top notes that give the perfume an ethereal edge. It is hard to imagine a more unthreatening perfume (which isn’t necessarily a recommendation), but there is also a reassuring familiarity about it, a play-doh, vanillic halo that I can imagine swirling around someone in a clean eddy of light, veiled, childlike innocence (which is).

Unknown

L’Histoire Charnelle (‘a carnal history’) is another sweetened patchouli perfume, albeit with an unusual twist: a fruited, spiced, coconut aureole up top that to me on first smell smelled as though it had been buried in turmeric. There is an extremely dusty quality about this perfume (something I always associate with that spice), possibly the combination of nutmeg and cinnamon (and pear, of all things), alongside the tangerine and bergamot that, all combined, I find slightly offputting, even as I am tempted to smell deeper. Eventually, as the fizzy bristle of the top accord subsides, the coconut/vanilla/tonka theme then becomes more apparent and solidified, with the very lingering, resonant patchouli beneath consistenly making itself known and apparent. This is quite a sexy, unusual scent I would say, and it could make a good signature scent for a woman or man who wants to remains outside the loop, though I am not ultimately sure whether the perfumer, Hubert Maes himself, has all the disparate notes within the blend sufficiently sewn together.

*

AD-Eau-de-Parfum

The same cannot be said of Anima Dulcis, a perfume that caused quite a stir when it came out three years ago when the new perfume house of Arquiste was launched by founder Carlos Huber. I immediately liked the range when I smelled them then in London at the Harrods Haute Parfumerie, particularly Fleur De Louis and Flor Y Canto as I just love well made, entrancing florals, but Anima Dulcis (‘soul of sweetness’) is also a very well-executed scent that quite appeals to me- a rich, deep, but appealing spice-chocolate perfume with a curious and unusual concept attached: a seventeenth century convent in Mexico (The Royal Convent Of Jesus Maria), the nuns absorbed in the preparation of of chilli-infused chocolate drink in the hallowed halls, strirring and chatting amongs themselves as they wait for the head sister, the only nun who can finish it (the recipe is secret). Like all the perfumes I am discussing today, this is another vanilla-centred scent with a strong patchouli facet, but here, there is much more heft, the main theme being a very brooding and hypnotic natural cocoa absolute, infused with cinnamon and chililes a la Mexicana ( I also always drink strong, thick,hot chocolate with vanilla bean and red chillies – I love it on a hot winter’s night). This idea is translated here very well into perfumery – everything is harmony. Though not as distinctive or odd as I was perhaps expecting it to be given the chilli idea – this is an eminently wearable perfume – Anima Dulcis strikes me almost as being a kind of next generation Opium: tightened, no way as leopard-printed and satin-scarved as that seventies classic, but still, sultry, dense and magnetic, and with floral orientalized reverberations of that orange-licked spice (It also quite reminded me of Histoire De Parfums George Sand).

I found myself going back to my wrist again and again as we headed home towards the station, the spot where I had applied the perfume a source of continuing dark, exotic scent: the level of sweetness just right, the vanilla – that beauteous, brain-altering substance – not dominating, here, lolling somewhere softly condensed down deep side within the blend, undulating, but still kept quite comfortably in check.

10 Comments

Filed under Almond, Chocolate, Gourmand, Patchouli, Vanilla

A LUSTY, MUSTY SELECTION OF PATCHOULI :: : : PATCHOULI by SANTA MARIA NOVELLA + PATCHOULI LEAVES by MONTALE + PATCHOULI NOIR by IL PROFUMO + PATCHOULI 24 by LE LABO + PATCHOULI by MOLINARD + PATCHOULI by LORENZO VILLORESI + PATCHOULY by ETRO + PATCHOULISSIME by KEIKO MECHERI + PATCHOULI by L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR

paisley-pattern-top-grey-loose-tee-t-shirt-winter-tunic-knit-top

 

 

Winter. The antisocial, deep pull of it.The malingering invasiveness. How it clings to you; piercing your bloodstream.

Patchouli, reminding you of where you came from, and where you will be going.The earth. Black, deep, wet: beyond the depths of the subconscious.

 

 

images-3

 

 

I adore patchouli, with reservations. For my Serge Luten’s classic Borneo 1834, my personal favourite, see my other piece on patchouli, Patchouli Patchouly. For a more recent and dressed up Dior take on the patchouli note, look here. For Madonna’s intriguing linkage to patchouli oil look here, but for a simple, more comprehensive look at a selection of the bona fide classics of the patchouli genre, go no further.

 

 

images-6.jpeg

 

 

PATCHOULI / SANTA MARIA NOVELLA

This truly is a must-have patchouli: rich, stinging and pure, the workers at the monastic, Florentine profumeria having done their patient and diligent work for you with these sour and pungent leaves. A dark, formal preparation, an elixir: root-coloured, viscous, in the classic gold embossed bottiglia.

While Santa Maria Novella’s patchouli doesn’t show off (there are no ‘twists’ or ‘facets’ here to undermine the harmony), the Santa Maria Novella rendition of that darkest of perfumed notes is perfect for those who simply want a well balanced, elegant patchouli.  Backed up with the subtle, warm musky base notes typical of the house, it lingers, sumptuously, all day: a beautiful Italian equilibrium of darkness and light.

images.jpeg

 

 

PATCHOULI LEAVES/ MONTALE

Already of legendary status among patchouli lovers, this is one of the best ‘straight’ patchoulis. If there is a problem with pure patchouli oil (which, I ultimately think is the best if you can find the right one), it is that it is sometimes much too rough and unwearable in it freshest state. You would have to stay in at home twelve hours before venturing out to get the exact stage of patchouli you were after (and this only with a good oil, they vary so much). And though not the precise balance of dry, musty and earthy I have long been after – I like it really, really earthy – this excellent blend by Montale saves you the bother of sequestering yourself in a patchouli dungeon waiting for the right moment to emerge by instead giving you an instant, fully formed, patchouli hit.

All of Montale’s perfumes are good, especially for those not interested in pale evanescence but who want their perfumes strong, erotic and proud. Patchouli Leaves is exactly that; the leaves of the patchouli plant, macerated for two years in oak tree bark. Under this fulsome melange is an ambered layer of vanilla, musk and Cystus Ladaniferous from Tibet that warms the blend (for me perhaps too much so), but rounds it, smooths it into a full fledged perfume that is sweet, replete and exotic.

 

 

Unknown.jpeg

PATCHOULI NOIR/ IL PROFUMO

Il Profumo is an interesting Italian niche brand which has what it claims to be a unique method of ‘osmosing’ its ingredients together: a ‘slow evaporation curve which allows a very intimate and sophisticated use of the perfume.’ All their perfumes are apparently given psychological directives; Patchouli Noir, according to the website, is ‘pervasive, decisive, antidepressant, tonic’, and it is, in fact, a peculiarly bodied, warming, musky, bodily patchouli that I find very emotive and enveloping. A chocolatey, vanillic base underlines the title note (with cedarwood and poppy), and it lasts, and lasts, and lasts, forever, on its wearer’s receiving skin.

 

 

 

 

Bailey guard gate - Lucknow c1862 by Shepherd & Robertson.jpg

 

 

 

PATCHOULI 24 / LE LABO

It’s rare to encounter a scent that hits the gut like the end of a love affair, but that’s exactly what this brilliantly original scent did to me the first time I smelled it in Paris. Once in a while a perfumer hits the jackpot with a collection of notes that cut straight to the emotional jugular, and this is it; the poignant smell of a lover gone, an ache of perfume, the perfumer taking the dark timbre of patchouli (very little – this can scarcely be called a patchouli in fact) a hint of cloves, and fused it with a beguiling, almost meaty, smoky-forest note of bonfires; Russian silver birch tar – a poignant, cruel smell, like smoked, Lapsong tea in a freezing wintery room. Fused to this strange and alluring smel is a sex-charged vanillic musk, for a very original, disturbing, and emotive patchouli of a totally different nature.

A hint of this on a lost lover’s shirt would be unendurable.

 

 

 

 

 

tumblr_m6zogfPlns1rw3fqbo1_1280.jpg

 

 

PATCHOULI/ MOLINARD

The Grasseois house of Molinard has been producing classical, impeccably made yet reasonably priced colognes and perfumes since 1849 in the old tradition, with its own flower fields, distilleries – the original artisanal methods of Provence that the town of Grasse still holds dear. And this is a very French patchouli, very much in the eau-de-cologne tradition of citrus, neroli, lavender, musk; at first glance merely delicate, refreshing, old fashioned.

Shortly though, as the day wears on, the pure, clinging scent of a very dry and well aged patchouli comes through the scent with an impeccable strength of character; staying fresh and close to the skin in a very loveable manner. Molinard’s Patchouli is an unusual scent, at once clean and conservative, mannered, yet eerily seductive.

 

luxury-apartment-in-the-rococo-style-in-st-petersburg-live-like-a-palace-1-207.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

PATCHOULI/ LORENZO VILLORESI

The great thing about the scents of Lorenzo Villoresi is their passion; fine quality materials blended in generous proportions with a deft, self assured and snarling distaste for the banal. This perfumer does, however, sometimes tend to pack quite a large number of essences into his perfumes and he is famous for his quite startling openings, his lunging preparatory overtures. His Patchouli, I find, on some days that I try it, seems smudged, perhaps, with a few too many ingredients: herbs and spices; a preponderance of dry, herbaceous lavender; vetiver; sandalwood; and warming fixatives of oakmoss and benzoin.

The resulting scent is thick, rich and strange; it disturbs with a dark, sexual power: an under-arm, animal muskiness that is very potent. A friend of mine likened this to the smell of a sweaty mechanic after a day in the garage, and I have to say it is true. This will be, for some, though, not an entirely bad thing – myself included, and I must admit I am actually thinking of buying this at some point.

 

unknown-1

PATCHOULY/ ETRO

There are plenty of patchoulis out there that do the typical patchouli/musk/vanilla combo for that loose-limbed, oofy, splayed-on-the-sofa thing, and these are rarely my favourites. Etro’s Patchouly is quite an original take on the theme, recognisably an oriental patchouli, but not slack, molly-coddled, or doe-eyed; rather it is a tight, airtight blend; persistent, dry, balsamic, under an arid and beautifully persistent patchouli from Java. Recommended.

 

mi0001466057

 

PATCHOULISSIME/ KEIKO MECHERI

In Japan’s traditional folk medicine, the leaves of the patchouli plant are the best known antidote to the bite of the mamushi; a poisonous snake that lurks in the grass in mountainous zones (and in the woods near my house). But in perfumery, the Japanese are known for quiet, transparent scents, and like all Keiko Mecheri Eau de Parfums, this does not graze the feral.

Mecheri, Japanese in name but a very New York based perfumer, makes urban, stylish scents that don’t demand too much on the wearer or her public, the appeal of the brand being an instant, colourful and rich likeability. Patchoulissime (a misleading name – there is nothing extreme here) is a light, floral scent with light ambered undertones: the patchouli hazes in and out when it feels like it with a certain clean grace. This patchouli is fresh and wearable, with a restraint that will appeal to some, but not too exciting if you are, like me, a true patchouli fiend.

 

0000108c_big.jpg

 

 

 

PATCHOULI / L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR

If you find this somewhere, on the internet, at a fleamarket, anywhere, anywhere and you love patchouli, then please, please snap it up. Usurped by the much more compromising, less interesting (and far more commerical) Patchouli Patch that came many years later, the powers that be at L’Artisan misguidedly decided to let this haunting classic go.

L’Artisan’s patchouli was beautiful, and the best ever: earth-full, but not earth-bound. A clarified, and purified beautifully brittle vine of dry, sinuosity that trailed behind you like a a stark winter sky viewed through thick bottled glass.

Aerian, light; a dry, holy spirit.

 

 

batik5metanews1

35 Comments

Filed under Patchouli

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Ms Cabochard’s younger sister……………QUIPROQUO by Grès (1975)

Cabochard, Bernard Chant’s classic patchouli chypre from 1959, looms large and elegantly in the Parisian canon as an archetype,  and it is not surprising therefore that the house of Madame Grès should have wanted to capitalize on its success with a perfume that was the same, essentially, but different: a Cabochard re-made for a new generation.

 

 

Quiproquo, one of the rarest of my vintage finds in Tokyo antique shops, is a reworking of the powdery patchouli of its exquisitely tailored predecessor, in the sportier, eau fraîche style of Ô de Lancome (an in-house restitching in those more seventies, tennis-white contours), and a quick internet search has  confirmed my instincts: both were created by the same perfumer, Robert Gonnon (who was obviously something of a genius – he also made Métal, Anaïs Anaïs, and Empreinte among others; all delicate, yet shadowed, creatures that I adore…)

 

 

Less floral and vetivered than Ô, whose pre-reformulation was one of the greatest, cold-creamy citruses ever made, Quiproquo has the imprint of her older sister but with smoother brow, a more relaxed, upbeat scent overlaid with the brightest, most perfect lemon-leaf head-notes: like pinching the leaves from the trees, ripping them apart and letting their essence ravish your hands as you raise them up to smell on a cool, summer’s day. This gorgeous opening then subdues to a more refined, citrus-powdery chypre note as QPQ, having made her point on this dramatic family reunion, settles down for a game of scrabble with flinty Cabochard, French windows open, siblings easing into familiarity (their strikingly similar younger brother, Monsieur Grès (1982) has also made it up to the house for the weekend), mineral water sparkling in glasses, breeze from the gardens and tennis lawns, this Saturday late in May, drifting in gently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

Image

15 Comments

Filed under Citrus, Lemon, Patchouli, Perfume Reviews

Adulterous: CABOCHARD by GRES (1959)

Image

 

 

 

 

Image

 

 

 

 

A dark, brooding, and very three-dimensional scent of greys, purples and black that hovers, tantalizing as velvet, above the skin, Cabochard (French for ‘obstinate’ or ‘pig-headed’) amazes with its complexity, the devious integrity of its construction. Its suggestiveness; the citrus, the hyacinth, geranium and sharp flowers: its strong woody tang of patchouli, tobacco, amber, and leather, alluring facets that all seem to develop on different levels simultaneously, right up to its last shadowy, chypric, powdered exhalations.

 

It is a perfume that was once described by one eminent critic as illuminating the secret life of a woman in Paris, her tweed suit tossed onto the bed after a hard day at work in a moment, perhaps, of clandestine liaison. And it is true that Cabochard is  reminiscent of lipstick, perfume and powder compacts falling from a well loved leather purse in the late light of afternoon. There is a nonchalance, a madamish insouciance. But the piquancy of the citrus oils and tobacco also make it in today’s context rather masculine,  androgynous at best. It is a gorgeous, intriguing scent, especially in its final, powdery, patchouli earth notes, and in vintage parfum, essential.

 

 

40 Comments

Filed under Chypre, Patchouli

A bristling citrus: PHILTRE D’AMOUR by GUERLAIN (2000)

Image

Image

With so many perfume houses releasing limited editions that are released, fanfared and then disappeared without trace, it becomes easy to equate their brevity on the market with similar levels of imagination. Neverthless, occasionally, the spontaneity and lack of expectation placed on limited editions can produce bursts of creativity that lead to more singular, less market-tested and common-denominator fragrances; scents that pop up unexpectedly like crocus-bulbs in spring and enchant you with  their fresh-breathed joie de vivre.

For a while at the beginning of the 2000’s, Guerlain would release limited perfumes that were not flankers to their main-line-up perfumes, but separate work, released in a prolific spirit of productivity that yielded such well-regarded treasures as Guet Apens and Gentiana.

In a spirit of mercy to these more inspired saplings that were culled before their prime, some of them were given a reprieve, a chance to star again, however briefly, on the billboard of ‘Les Parisiennes’, a kind of Guerlain Golden Hall of Fame for discontinued classics and limited releases that stubbornly refused to die a death, and Philtre D’Amour, a wonderful, moody citrus, is one of them.

I found my bottle at the flea market and bought it unsniffed, expecting, as the name would suggest, something sultry and floral. Spraying the scent was thus a total shock. Philtre D’Amour is a sour, concentrated, and very natural accord of verbena, myrtle and lemon-leaves layered delicately over a sharp, fantastically dark patchouli: a mysterious and lovely, almost powdery citrus chypre that leaves an intriguing and surprisingly nuanced trail in its wake.

She is a delicate thing, this Philtre; treat her carefully, don’t rub her up the wrong way or step on her emotions, and she will yield; show you through the ivy-covered doors of her secret garden to the other side: her neroli’d, fresh air garden petals of jasmine diced with petitgrain: gentle walks around the topiaries, the April skies opening up and bestowing newness, vitality and Spring as the lemons shine youthfully and you sigh gratefully that someone out there still knows how to make a modern, yet classically structured, perfume.

Vistas and groves open up when I smell Philtre D’Amour: it is slight, it is curious, but it is something I would wear all the time if I had more of it:  the delicate, little 30ml cylinder you see in the picture is kept for special, precious use.

62

16 Comments

Filed under Chypre, Citrus, Lemon, Patchouli, Verbena

RUSH: GUCCI (1999)

Image

Yesterday we looked at gardenias; those gorgeous, perturbing flowers I am somewhat obsessed with (though I don’t know quite why I am writing about them at the moment when their blooming is so far off…outside the snow is still melting from the huge snowfall of Monday….)

While the Chanel Gardenia template is one direction that perfumers can go in; nipping it in the bud and giving it propriety, taming a flower which is something of an animal when all is said and done as it stands there, immobile, feverish and lurid under cold moonlight, other perfumers embrace this disconcerting angle of gardenias and fill their scents with it ( the carnal flower by Santa Maria Novella comes to mind in particular). A certain Madonna/whore dichotomy exists then with this flower: few perfumers take the gardenia out of these traditional moulds and inject it with modern verve.

Whether or not I can convincingly talk of Rush by Gucci as a gardenia I am not sure, but the flower is certainly there in the fore and back ground of this scent, sucked out violently from its clandestine lunar hedgerows and thrust, almost uncomfortably, into the twenty first century sass of the urban mall where teenagers strut, chew gum, and toss back their hair, to the easy, friendly bitchiness of this fragrance’s jeans-and-t-shirt vibe. I am not sure if Rush is still popular, as 1999 is quite a long time ago in modern perfumery terms, though my guess is that it still would be. Although the majority of recent mainstream releases lack a hook, a chorus you can sing along to and remember, certain perfumes do succeed in locking into their DNA a refrain, a simple accord that rings true. Perfumes like Beautiful, which I am fond of, still sell by the bucketload for this very reason……you can remember them.

So once in a while a product arrives in the vastly overcrowded fragrance market that is new yet somehow familiar, striking a nerve like a characterful person you’ve not met before, yet immediately take to: Gucci’s Rush, in its iconoclastic plastic red oblong bottle, was one such perfume. It was the Obsession of the early 2000’s – a legible perfume with a message – a sexy,  unpretentious, direct hit. As soon as Tom Ford was given the scent strip by his perfumer he apparently said yes, immediately, without second thought, not even bothering to sample the other applications for the brief. He knew a money-winner when he smelled one.

The perfume is simple and streamlined with four main features: a fresh, leaf-green note with hints of coriander; a lactonic apricot with the touch of white chocolate; a lingering skin-musk patchouli that lasts all day: and draped over this, with its holographic petals, a sexy modern gardenia (a concept of the flower rather than a botanical reconstruction), with Bulgarian rose and a hint of vanilla.

This accord in Rush is both immediate and effective; odd, with its mix of cream and green, and it certainly doesn’t smell expensive. Yet it is very memorable, and smelling it again recently brought back vivid memories of a trip to Taiwan, where my friend, a Ms Katherine Ng, used to drench herself in the stuff. Fourteen years later it is still very appealing.

18 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Gardenia, Patchouli