Thoughts about Niche, the New Black and the Big Bad Wolf

May 23 (Reuters) – “The $31 billion-a-year perfume industry is bracing itself for tighter EU regulations to be adopted by the end of the year that will include ingredient bans and labelling requirements aimed at protecting consumers from allergies.”

Yes, nothing new under the sun there. But contrary to what you might think now, this post is actually not going to be about how the Big Bad IFRA Wolf will huff and puff until the last fragrance pyramid falls. These are a few simple observations that I have tried to put into words.

When I first started to truly appreciate fragrance, visiting perfumeries often, and then started having several perfumes rather than one signature, it was in the nineties, and even if niche existed, it hadn’t reached me yet, but also, it wasn’t really all that important yet, because the mainstream houses produced exciting stuff, and there were forerunners. I’m thinking of Yohji Homme, Le Feu d’Issey, Angel, Féminité du Bois, etc. Féminité du Bois changed what a fragrance marketed at women can be, and Angel arguably created a whole new perfume-genre.

Things changed, I don’t know why, but perhaps perfumes were such an easy win for many companies, mainstream became mainstream, formulas were repeated ad nauseam after the devise ‘if it ain’t broke- don’t fix it’- a fertile ground for niche to develop and take hold. And so it did. Many fantastic new houses and brands created great stuff and explored new ways.

Now within niche so many new brands and launches take place, that creating truly new, exciting and well-crafted stuff is tough. Being first with something completely new, might mean that you won’t survive as a new brand, as might using too many precious materials prove too expensive or simply too risky, as the first casualties have already happened within niche brands I thought well established.

Thinking of the trend of minimalist fragrances, I thought how niche almost seems to have mainstreamified; a lot of similar things are coming out- minimalist seem to still be en vogue, but…

In the middle of the huffing and puffing and the extinction of old formulas, that are only possible to experience as either museums piece,s like at Maison Guerlain, or if you’re willing to pay big sums as the prices of famous vintage bottles on auction sites are soaring, retro perfumery is trending. If you can’t invent new, invent old. Everywhere I look, the most exciting new release is actually an old one, lots of old companies are being revived (Volnay, Oriza L. LeGrand, Jovoy), and/or reissuing (Houbigant, Lubin, Rochas, Jean Patou), or recreating in retro spirit or in a story (Roja Dove perfumes, Andy Tauer’s Tableaus, Envoyage’s Zelda, DSH Pandora a.o, or Penhaligon’s Tralala aldehydes). And I am quite sure I’m forgetting half.

But isn’t it funny, that in the middle of the extinction of whole genres of perfume, and the ghostly shadow of reformulation, or the ‘IFRA Brazilian wax job’ as Denyse termed it the other day, a definite change in the world of niche perfume is taking place with reviving perfumes long gone, and reformulating classic perfumes to higher standards and at a cost. Is the classic perfumery to become the new way of niche? Is it because of the IFRA threat, or is it something else? Or is it not an important trend, but just a branch on the niche-tree?

What do you think?

 

Picture from Oriza L. LeGrand homepage

A Bite of the Pineapple… 1804 Histoires de Parfums

There’s something gloriously silly about pineapples. They make you think of fun, of sunshine, cocktails on the beach, they seem a fantasy-picture of the easy life. And without actually loving heavy use of fruity notes in perfume, there are a few pineapple perfumes that I really enjoy.

With Histoires de Parfums’ 1804, perfumer M. Ghislaine writes that he aimed at a perfume which reflected the generosity and sensuality of George Sands. I don’t think many would have thought of linking pineapple and George Sands, but as an inspiration- why not?

The author, born 1804, who wrote under the pen-name George Sand, is perhaps then as today equally famous for her writing as for sporting male clothes and having numerous famous lovers; amongst them Musset who called her “The most womanly woman” and Chopin- the latter recorded in her book ‘a winter in Mallorca’.

1804 George Sand is almost as solifrutti as they get. It seems like everything else in there is only there to support the sense of a tropical pineapple on the height of its dripping ripeness. To begin with it’s taken with a pinch of a beautiful peach. Then a soft downy heart of white flowers, which seem to turn tropical, probably because of the delicate spices added, and then a musky warm-skin-toned dry down. And over all this there’s always the juicy pineapple. Light-hearted, loveable and golden is what comes to mind describing it. I very much enjoy the sensual adultness of this perfume, at no point am I confusing this with any product aimed at teenagers. In best HdP fashion this is such a well composed, and with all its exoticness still an ultimately French perfume, I very much envisage a leisurely summers day sipping a Flirtini* in the south of France. On me the perfume wears quite light, perfect for summer.

Kitty pineapple

If you think I personally got my inspiration from the kitty photo, that I wanted to share for quite some time, well, you might not be completely wrong. The kitten belongs to my friend whom I happened to stay with (between flats) when this photo was taken. I think it just proves the point; everyone wants a bite of the pineapple.

Notes according to Histoires de Parfums’ page:

Top Note: Tahitian Gardenia, Corsica Peach, Hawaiian Pineapple
Heart Note: Clove, Nutmeg, Indian Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Rose of Morocco
Base Note: Sandalwood, Patchouli, Benzoin, Vanilla, White Musk

A few links to perfume reviews of Histoires de Parfums 1804: The Non Blonde, Katie Puckrik and  unseen censer

Top Note: Tahitian Gardenia, Corsica Peach, Hawaiian Pineapple
Heart Note: Clove, Nutmeg, Indian Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Rose of Morocco
Base Note: Sandalwood, Patchouli, Benzoin, Vanilla, White Musk
– See more at: http://www.histoiresdeparfums.com/intl/products/1804.php#sthash.f9Bkngbb.dpuf
Top Note: Tahitian Gardenia, Corsica Peach, Hawaiian Pineapple
Heart Note: Clove, Nutmeg, Indian Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Rose of Morocco
Base Note: Sandalwood, Patchouli, Benzoin, Vanilla, White Musk
– See more at: http://www.histoiresdeparfums.com/intl/products/1804.php#sthash.f9Bkngbb.dpuf

*And the recipe for those ‘official sex and the city’ Flirtinis are one part vodka to two parts pineapple juice and two parts Champagne.

 

The Greatest Perfumes Never Made -1 Blixen’s Ehrengard

Writing about perfumes makes you particularly aware of any perfume references outside the actual fragrance platforms. Some authors have a knack not just for the occasional scent inspired description, or reference to a certain perfume, but for actually creating things of fragrant beauty in their own right. A description which reads like notes to an elusive perfume you instantly get a craving to smell.

The great story-teller Tania (Karen) Blixen, of ‘Out of Africa’- fame, wrote ‘Ehrengard’ late in her life, and it was only published posthumous in 1963. It is a typical case of Blixen’s box stories (think Russian Dolls), and we are about half way through the story before the title heroine makes her entrée.

Diana-Leaving-her-Bath Francois Boucher

Opposite the unaffected and virtuous Ehrengard is the self-satisfied artist and connoisseur of all things romantic Johann Wolfgang von Cazotte as the leading man. Blixen’s balance act of ridicule and love for her male protagonist makes this one of the definitely lighter and funnier of her stories. A highlight is where the painter Cazotte discovers Ehrengard bathing, and is in a reverie about this most magnificent composition that he is going to paint; ‘Diana leaving her bath’. Without revealing too much I can say that Diana being the Roman Goddess of hunt as well as the virgin goddess of childbirth and women, it all ties in perfectly with the Blixenesqe universe. The plot is magnificent in all its twists and turns, and the final point is nothing short of triumphant.

 

A scent worthy of the Amazonian Ehrengard would be a great thing in its own right, but Blixen does one better; she offers it to us, a magic elixir that I for one would dearly like to smell.

“The evening air was getting cooler, she rode through many spheres of fragrance; clover, flowering lime trees and drying strawberry fields, through them all the ammoniac smell from the lathering horse was the strongest. She drew in her breath deeply, and hastened on, with raised head and distended nostrils, a young female centaur playing along the grass fields.”

Would the notes read something like this?

top; green notes, neroli, clover, cassis

heartnotes; lime/linden, strawberry, hay, grass, rose

base; ammoniac, musk, leather, oakmoss (oak groves were sacred to the Goddess Diana), resin and labdanum.

ehrengard copyright me

 

What do you think, if we go lightly on the ammoniac, would you like to smell Blixen’s elixir? What notes would you have added?

Let us garlands bring- Puredistance Antonia & I

I normally need a bit of time to get used to a floral perfume, for it to settle and to appreciate it for what it is, not wishing it to be different. Or else I need to feel the urge to explore and want a certain type of florals- like a lily-of-the-valley or lilac perfume. Rarely, very rarely does a floral fragrance land on my wrist and without further ado, just belong there.

Puredistance’s Antonia is one of those special floral perfumes; it feels soft and inviting, begging to be sniffed because you simply can’t help yourself. It seems like such a summer floral. Opening with the most delicate soap bubbles as to highlight the flowers underneath, I smell the ylang ylang, the jasmine and the rose, but am unable to say where one stops and another begins, they are so softly intertwined, weaved like a garland rather than a bouquet. The ylang ylang brings a radiant silkiness to the elegant rose, just as the jasmine has all the dewiness but is void of any sharp indoles. A semi-sweet vanilla and buttery and slightly earthy greenery closes the garland. As sunny and flowing as the perfume is, in my mind it plays on two different strings, it has a strong personality yet is soft like velvet, in that sense it’s a feeling of divaesque naturalness or laid-back beauty.

“Then to Silvia let us sing,

That Silvia is excelling;

She excels each mortal thing

Upon the dull earth dwelling;

To her let us garlands bring”  From ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’

edouard villard mimosa

If Antonia is a garland, Puredistance ‘I’ feels like a honeyed meadow of wild flowers on an early summers day.

The mimosa, also acacia, is renowned for its sweet nectar, and the beautiful and somewhat sharp honey this blossom produces with a little help from their bee friends. This honey perhaps adds a bit of easy boldness to ‘I’ compared to the garlands of Antonia. A light hand strews sweet citrus notes over the honeyed flowers, just enough to make the sweetness pleasant and warm. And sunny grass and a wealth of flowers add depth and beauty. The fragrance comes to rest on a pillow of downy musk. It has a warm heart and a straight forward happiness that is intoxicating.

And because no one can say it better; “Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;” From sonnet XXXIII

 

And because it always is nice to read old reviews again, for more perfume reviews (just a few there are a lot out there) try Vanessa, Ines, Undina, Suzanne, Olfactoria, the non blonde and many more I’m sure. If you wrote about any of these two, feel free to ad your blog-link

What Scent but that of Lilacs? Lilac fragrances part 1

When looking for a lilac perfume, what exactly are we searching for; memories, the foreboding of spring, the lilac bush as it goes from a green on-burst over alluring sweetness to decaying sensuality?

For this first post on lilac perfumes, it is going to be about three contemporary and still available lilac fragrances. The title refers to Hans Sachs‘ aria from Wagners opera Die Meistersänger aus Nürnberg ‘Was duftet doch der Flieder’. Die Meistersänger (the mastersingers) hold a competition for men to enter their Guild, whereby a singer composes a song to very difficult intricate set rules. Walther, who wants to enter, sings in a new style, and only Hans Sachs recognises that although new and different this song is of particular beauty. I thought it was a fitting title since lilac suffers from a somewhat old fashioned reputation, and yet it inspires contemporary perfumers to reinvent it. As Sachs sings; ‘It sounded so old – and yet was so new, a birdsong as sweet as May!’

I Profumi di Firenze ‘Lilla Serenella’

It’s lilac the Italian way, to state the obvious. Whatever lilac might be elsewhere, in Firenze it’s naughty. It’s dirty, fleshy, intoxicating and somehow still a lady. Like the difference between French Chic and Italian Passione, this one doesn’t wear Chanel, it wears Versace. Its purple waxy petals shine with delight, they’re moist not with dew but with thick nectar, shivering in anticipation, before dying in the serene sunset over the hills of Tuscany.

This Lilla Serenella might be a soliflore, but it makes me forget all about it. And did I mention that if you visit Firenze, these perfumes are a steal.

images versace, carey, beyonce by testino

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ineke ‘After my own heart’

To begin with it’s all apple and tard berries. And I get quite a bit of white musk coming through. Basically it’s quite a fruity-floral opening. I then do get a nice soft whisper of lilac, not in any way overpowering, but kind of just a sudden immergence. So despite the focus on the sharp and green in the opening of the fragrance, towards the lilac-heart the fragrance mellows, I suppose with the help of the heliotrope and sandalwood notes, although these are very faint. Basically being a nice and happy floral with a fresh and fruity top, it is for you if you like such fragrances. For me, well you might have guessed it, I lack a bit of something else. The intoxicating alluring note, some spike, some romance, a song, a dance…

La Parfumerie Moderne ‘Désarmant’

A new release from a new niche brand, Désarmant is all about lilac. Apparently it is based on a memory of a mystery perfume found at a hotel. As lilac soliflores go, this one is really very pretty and authentic. Désarmant manages to find a fine line between not being about to eat you whole (indole overload) nor about to be eaten (macaron-style). For the shortest moment the opening has a bit of grubbiness, like fresh moist soil, and freshness like a spring breeze before these come together to form the actual scent of lilac.  A lot of modern lilacs, like to add a watery fresh or even yeasty note, not so here, and yet, Désarmant also does most certainly not smell vintage. It sits on a bench in the shadow of the lilac and stays there in its soliflore mode for a long time, with not much else happening, until suddenly it changes character and becomes quite animalic in a furry sort of way, before it softens into a faint growl. We can only guess as to what happened underneath those lilac bushes? Or in that hotel room?

I’ll let Hans Sachs have the last word; ‘What scent but that of lilacs, is so gentle, so strong and full!’

 

For more lilac perfume reviews and round-ups; Undina goes looking for the perfect lilac here and here and here’s  Bois de Jasmin ‘s take.