Sunday, 26 February 2017

Persil Biological Laundry Detergent Review

Jean-Claude Ellena likes to tell the story of the time he was turned away at Edmond Roudnitska’s doorstep because his clothes smelt too strongly of washing detergent. As a non-perfumer, I’m happily free from any such constraints and can enjoy the daily ritual of putting on a freshly laundered shirt and taking a deep breath as my body heat warms the fabric. 
Granted, many laundry care products these days are obnoxiously strong and with the advent of scent boosters like Lenor’s massively successful Unstoppables, only getting more obtrusive. 
Persil’s green-capped liquid detergent however, bucks the trend and smells fantastic: fresh and green with a big dose of very incense-like aldehydes (my favourite part). The scent lasts well on laundered items yet is subtle enough not to clash with the perfumes I wear. The biological formula is effective, too. 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Bat Review

There’s so much Geosmin in Bat that wearing it feels like your perfume is trying to waterboard you. Heavy, humid notes of damp earth catch in your throat and oppress the smell of green banana and berries. Only in the late drydown phase does this feel integrated with a rich smelling base of strong, even a shade steroidal blond wood, resiny spiciness and a wet, Cashmeran like muskiness. 
It’s a very thoughtfully considered response to a brief, but for portability’s sake, I would prefer to see the levels adjusted. 

Nose: Ellen Covey
House: Zoologist
Release date: 2016
Notes (per Fragrantica): banana, fruity notes, soil tincture, fig, tropical fruits, myrrh, resins, green notes, musk, leather, vetiver, sandalwood, tonka bean. 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Panda Review

It’s been said there are three basic types of green notes in perfumery: (1) galbanum greens (including spicy greens); (2) violet leaf greens (including ivy and fig greens); and (3) cut-grass, hexanol/hexanyl greens (including fruity greens). Locating Panda within this triangle is not entirely straightforward, though it pulls more towards corners 1 and 3 than 2.
Panda’s overall theme then is fresh, cyclamen-aldehyde like verdancy; powerful, slightly metallic greenery over a fruity-floral heart of lily-of-the-valley and orange blossom with concord grape and melon nuances and a very subtle, sichuan pepper contrast. The effect comes somewhat at the expense of naturalness of feel and come the late drydown of pale woods and musks, the scent remains close to the skin. This however, is in line with expectations given the fragrance’s (presumed) objective.

Nose: Paul Kiler
House: Zoologist
Release date: 2014
Notes (per Fragrantica): buddha’s hand citron, bamboo, Sichuan pepper, green tea, mandarin Zisu leaves, osmanthus, orange blossom, lilies, mimosa, incense, sandalwood, pemou root, cedar, fresh musk, bourbon and haitian vetiver, damp moss.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Rhinoceros Review

A boozy scent that’s as big and boisterous as its namesake, Rhinoceros announces its presence with an arrestingly terpy opening of elemi whose lemon-citrus notes dovetail with bergamot and a herbal accord of lavender/sage/armoise. Detectable even in the top is the elaborate blend of nearly a dozen different musks (c.15%) and this complexity is further expressed with one of the most convincing liquor notes I’ve come across. The official pyramid lists rum, but to me the richly textured accord - alcoholic, woody, leathery, smoky – reads closer to whisky, at least initially. As the perfume dries down, the dried-fruit facets of the oakwood extract do become clearer, as does a honeyed sweetness that links to deep, woody amber fond.
Colour me impressed!

Nose: Paul Kiler
House: Zoologist
Release date: 2015
Notes (per Fragrantica): rum, bergamot, lavender, elemi, sage, pine needles, artemesia, tobacco, oud, immortelle, geranium, cedar, vetiver, sandalwood, amber, leather, musks.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Figue en Fleur Review

A straight fig fragrance (meaning sundry Stemone type green notes over coconut lactones and a sweet coumarin/tonka, musky base) of no particular merit or distinction. 

Nose: unknown
House: Andrée Putman
Release date: 2015
Notes (per Fragrantica): fig leaf, fig tree, rose, tonka, almond, sandalwood.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Je Suis un Homme Review

Je Suis un Homme is a take on the masculine herbal-citrus genre, aspiring to such classics as Guerlain’s Derby. 
From under the toppy citrus notes develops a dry herbal accord that has a lightly burnt quality. Patchouli, labdanum and musks meanwhile, make up the fond.
Technically accomplished but not wildly exciting. 

Nose: Antoine Lie
House: Etat Libre d’Orange
Release date: 2006
Notes (per Fragrantica): bergamot, orange, lemon, myrtle, clove, cognac, leather, patchouli, animal notes.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Semiotic Spritz Part 9: Penhaligon's Portraits: From Pen's to Le Pen

It’s winter 2016/17: Britain is negotiating its exit from the EU; Trump has been elected President of the USA; and Penhaligon’s has just released its ‘Portrait Series’ – a set of six fragrances inspired by the ‘British aristocracy’. Housed in eye-catching bottles each topped with a gold, hunting-trophy head, they carry names such as 'The Tragedy of Lord George' and 'The Coveted Duchess Rose'. 

In another age, it might have been the price that was cause for comment: £178 for 75mL is, as they say, ‘aspirational’. But we’re largely inured now to sticker shock, hardened by the likes of Roja Dove, Xerjoff and Henry Jacques.  

Instead, what’s noteworthy about this line is how far it departs, designwise, from Penhaligon’s standard and how well this resonates with the prevailing ‘populist’ (nationalist-xenophobic, really) mood that is currently sweeping much of Europe and North America.

Just like the Portrait series, which is said to represent the ‘English spirit’, right-wing populism employs a nativist rhetoric, favouring monoculturalism over pluralistic cosmpolitanism. And just as the copywriter for Penhaligon’s campaign freely interchanges British with English, populist narratives aren’t too concerned with the granular. 


They, the authors of populist propaganda, are constantly making appeals to a mythical, ‘pure’ past; a time before mass immigration, a time, in fact, very much like the one represented by the Portraits who are all reassuringly Anglo-Saxon. 

Where Penhaligon’s have previously looked beyond the shores of our tiny islands, finding inspiration in Egypt (Oud de Nil, 2016) and Iraq (Ninevah, 2015), the Anglocentrism of the new range is easily read as reflecting the inward focus of nationalist ideology. And if this seems like a stretch, consider that the next release from Pen’s is ‘Savoy Steam’ – an homage to London’s old Savoy steam baths. 

As a counter-reaction to the creeping liberalism of the past fifty years, this political movement represented by Farage, Le Pen, Wilders et al. argues for a turning away from Post-materialist values and an embracing of ‘traditional’ ones. And who better to represent English/British traditionalism than its nobility whose singular distinction is its vast material capital?

Whether this strategy by Penhaligon’s pays off remains to be seen. Whilst capturing the Zeitgeist, the marketing campaign appears targeted at an affluent, youthful sector whose first encounter with Fitzgerald was likely Baz Luhrmann’s successful adaptation of Gatsby in 2013. It is precisely this demographic who, studies show, are least likely to vote for Trump and Brexit and therefore identify with the line. One thing we can be certain of though, is that Sales will be keeping a very close eye on the figures, praying the effort doesn’t backfire as it did in the case of the gloriously misjudged Tralala (2014), which is now, unsurprisingly, discontinued.