Saturday, 29 March 2014

Eau de Patou (vintage) Review

Eau de Patou (vintage) is situated somewhere between a traditional Eau de Cologne (consisting essentially in an accord of top-notes) and a fully developed Chypre.
Of the commonly used citrus oils, bergamot stands out for its naturally high concentration of linalool and linalyl acetate, which idea is here extrapolated to give the fragrance heft. Eau de Patou thus seamlessly blends a classical hesperidic top with a slightly terpy, aromatic heart redolent of lavender and peppered greenery.
Helping offset some of the fragrance’s sharpness is a perfectly synched floral complement that’s initially suggestive of honeysuckle and jasmine and perhaps rose, but fairly quickly looses its sweetness as the (real) oakmoss begins to assert its earthy self. Meanwhile, lurking deep in the base is touch of dirty civet that acts as a fantastic fixative, giving Eau de Patou good longevity by eaux standards.

[N.B. Review is based on the above shown presentation]

Nose: Jean Kerleo.
House: Jean Patou
Release date: 1976
Notes (per Fragrantica): orange, sicilian citruses, honeysuckle, pepper, tunisian orange blossom, ylang-ylang, nasturcia, amber, musk, civet oakmoss.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

La Note Verte, by Jean-Claude Ellena. Book Review.

La Note Verte marks perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena’s entry into the world of fiction and comes on the heels of his 2011 publication Journal d’un Parfumeur (also Sabine Wespieser). Earlier contributions to his literary oeuvre include Le Parfum (Presses Universitaires de France, 2009) and Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent (Arcade Publishing, 2007).

The perfumer-cum-writer is not an entirely unknown figure: Edmond Roudnitska, Guy Robert, Alec Lawless, to name but a few, have each at some point in their careers swapped pipette for pen (or ketones for keyboards). Understandably however, they contented themselves with expounding the technical or aesthetic aspects of perfumery and in this regard, Ellena’s novella - which spans a mere 129 pages (c.15,000 words), is, well, novel.

Ellena though, is keen to emphasise what he considers the essential similarities between the acts of literary and fragrant composition. Previously, he described himself as a 'writer of smells' (‘écrivain d’odeurs’, Journal, p.12) and here he sets out explicitly through the voice of one of his characters the notion that perfume, like verbal language, is governed by its own rules of syntax and grammar, is capable of synonymic expression and even polyvalence (p.80). As if to underscore his thesis that ever the twain shall meet (or perhaps simply following Mark Twain's apocryphal advice to ‘write what you know’) Ellena decided to set his début narrative in the world of fine fragrance.

The story itself revolves around Claude Nael who for some twenty years has been the resident perfumer at Robert Gallot - a French fashion house that found fame with its post-war classic fragrance L’Air de Paris. Claude in many respects embodies the Old School and rubs uncomfortably against iPhone culture. Yet, in contrast to his decidedly outmoded dress sense, his fragrant creations exist beyond the vicissitudes of fashion, expressing a simple, uncluttered aesthetic.

Claude's shock comes one fine afternoon when the president of Robert Gallot perfumes, the ruthless Monsieur Mazuret, cooly announces his services in respect to the house's soon-to-be-launched feminine fragrance are no longer required. Instead, the project's reigns are to be passed to a young, ambitious perfumer Nicholas Daglance, whom, it is assumed, is more au courant with the market's taste.

In the twenty, brief chapters that follow, the focus shifts more or less alternately between the outgoing and newly-appointed nez: as Nicholas attempts with ever increasing desperation to deconstruct the ultimate essai produced by his predecessor, in particular its mysterious 'green note' (the titular note verte), Claude is left to focus on more artisanal projects and reflect on the current State of the Perfumed Nation. As a reader, we are thus afforded a behind-the-scenes glimpse into an industry where fragrances are released to the whirring of competitors' GC-MS machines and facsimiles are freely produced in the absence of copyright protection.

The book's blurb assures us that 'any resemblance to persons past or present is purely co-incidental', but with such an intimate connection between author and subject, it is inevitable that real-world correspondences will be sought. Certainly, to the extent that one is familiar with the career and work of M.Ellena, one can identify parallels with his quasi-anagrammatically named character Claude Nael. La Note Verte however, makes no pretense of the fact it represent a fictitious twist on the narrator's truth; if anything, there's a measured mischievousness in its reflexive awareness.

Written in elegantly clear prose that’s tight without ever feeling pinched, Ellena’s literary work manifests the same perspicacity as has become his signature in fragrance and makes for an untaxing read. So, spritz on some Osmanthe Yunnan, brew a pot of jasmine tea (Claude would) and as the quest for la note verte unfolds, take note of which perfumer’s head you imagine on the fictional shoulders of Nicholas Daglance.

Publisher: Éditions Sabine Wespieser. 
Release date: May, 2013.
Pages: 136 + 8. 
Size: 14 x 18 cms. 
Price: 16 €.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Terre d'Hermès Review

Set against an arid, Iso E Super dominated (c. 55%) landscape is some pleasantly nutty vetiver and earthy treemoss, which green, woody theme is paired with citrus - here approaching bitter orange and grapefruit. The addition of a notable dose of pink pepper (c.1%) and geranium gives the fragrance a cool, rosy blush and opens an intriguing dialogue of the masculine and feminine.
A definite cut above the usual designer offerings. 

Nose: Jean-Claude Ellena
House: Hermès
Release date: 2006
Notes (per Fragrantica): Orange, grapefruit, pepper, vetiver, pelargonium, cedar, patchouli, benzoin.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Ungaro Pour l'Homme II Review

Ungaro Pour l’Homme II is an attractively anachronistic fougèriental that repudiated the early ‘90s trend for clean, metallic smelling masculine scents and instead took for inspiration Guerlain’s Jicky – the animalic reference launched fully a century prior.
Both fragrances open with an arresting blast of civet drenched citrus (principally bergamot) atop a lavender dominated aromatic accord that’s sweetened by a balmy- musky-vanillic oriental fond.
Where though Jicky can hardly wait to show off its star base-note ingredient coumarin, whose pasty, hay-like odour was still novel in perfumery at the time of its composition, Ungaro II is given a vibrant lift by the addition of geranium oil which extends the citric top and adds a fresh, manly rosiness to the heart.  

Nose: François Demachy (?)
House: Ungaro
Release date: 1992 (discontinued)
Notes (per Fragrantica): orange, coriander, lavender, basil, neroli, bergamot lemon, carnation, ginger, pepper, orris root, jasmine, rose, geranium leather, amber, sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli, musk, benzoin, civet, vanilla, cedar.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

L'Eau Serge Lutens Review

L’Eau Serge Lutens opens to a generic, ozonic-floral accord with slight cinnamic accents. As the assembled cast of musks take their turn in the spotlight, the perfume moves from clean laundry, through hot iron (in the direction of Habanolide) to dry, delicately spiced woods.
A truly chilling portent.
Don’t say Uncle Serge hasn’t warned you…

Nose: Christopher Sheldrake
House: Serge Lutens
Release date: 2009
Notes (per Fragrantica): aldehydes, citrus, magnolia, white mint, clary sage, ozonic notes, musk.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Isparta 26 Review

Isparta is dominated by an intense Turkish rose note that's surrounded by the honey and dark fruit / berry-like qualities of damasc(en)ones. Helping to drive the scent down the Oriental path is Ambroxan, the balsamic, labdanumesque qualities of which are furthered by a blend of sticky resins and incense. A generous amount of patchouli meanwhile, provides a counter to the scent’s sweetness and as the perfume develops, the latter's dusky, earthy qualities become more apparent, culminating in a caliginous woody accord with roasted-coffee and oak mossy nuances, as well as some oud-type facets stemming from cypriol. 
Overall, Isparta’s rose-patchouli-incense-Ambrox(an) theme is strongly redolent of D. Ropion / F. Malle’s Portrait of a Lady (2010).

Nose: Pierre Guillaume
House: Parfumerie Générale
Release date: 2014
Notes (per Fragrantica): red berries, rose, peru balsam, calamus, patchouli, olibanum, benzoin, agarwood, ambroxan, moss.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Dior Homme Review

Dior Homme’s silver box presentation is apt to reflect the metallic tones of orris and the coolness of lavender, which pairing essentially constitute the fragrance.
After a fresh bergamot opening that has a slight waxy facet, the scent gains in floralcy with the appearance of subtle, lily-like accents. Assertive woody ingredients meanwhile, serve as a ‘masculine’ balance: these include vetiver or, more precisely, vetiveryl acetate, which represents vetiver oil freed of its more earthy qualities, as well as the ubiquitous Ambrofix + Iso E Super blend. Though I find the dry cedar initially intrusive, it soon settles into its proper place. Finally, the steely composition reveals its soft side with a gourmand finish of cocoa and vanilla.

Nose: Olivier Polge
House: Dior
Release date: 2005
Notes (per Fragrantica): lavender, sage, bergamot, iris, amber, cacao, cardamom, patchouli, leather, tahitian vetiver.