Three to share- Atkinson’s Odd Fellow’s Bouquet (2013), Xerjoff’s Bouquet Ideale (2010) and Agonist’s The Infidels (2013)

A few days ago, I could feel the spring in the air, the sun was shining from a clear blue sky, birds were singing, bees were out to gather the first nectar of the year, and I was just about to pack away my winter coat and share with you the lovely photos to proof all this in a spring greetings post. Alas, today as it should be officially spring time, it’s snowing!

So, somewhat randomly three different ‘shared’ scents were sat on my desk. They have quite a few traits in common, being cosy scents to suit the weather, rather than the season, and each also has a nice sense of heritage from their origin; England, Italy and Sweden.

The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet by Atkinson’s is meant to evoke the fragrant image of “the return of Lawrence of Arabialeather-chair-library-books-interiors to the fireside luxuries of London’s most storied gentleman’s club”. The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet (OFB) has the signatures of an oriental fragrance, there’s the amber base of vanilla and resins, quite a substantial heliotrope at the heart which melds powdery cherry sweetness with the haze of hookah tobacco smoke. Up top is a sharpness of pepper and ginger, exactly enough to justify its suitability for gentlemen as well as ladies. At times I could swear I also get something herbal, sharp in the opening which isn’t the ginger or pepper, and which I like for that tiny bit of an edge. For a real touch of gentlemen’s club they should probably have added a bit of old well-worn leather armchair, stiff white collars, and perhaps a glass of whiskey with that. But for the cold, grey, snowy afternoon, and my minds imagery of cosy fireplace, cashmere houndtooths shawls and the scent of gentlemanly boyfriend sweater, this one hits the mark.

The Italian version oddly has the English joke. Xerjoff’s Bouquet Ideale doesn’t hold a single flower (, that’s unless we count the tobacco flowers).images It’s a bouquet in which the main ‘blossoms’ are called resin, wood and spice. Now, alone for that joke I have to love it. You can see that Italian Signor trying to sell you Bouquet Ideale, saying ‘oh, Signor/-a, but I have all the right flowers for you here, prego’ accompanied by a flirtatious smile. Worried customer, afraid of florals doesn’t dare to resist, and smiles with great relief upon smelling the bouquet unfolding. Honeyed resins, with that glowing balance between amber coloured sweet and chewy dark tangy. Here the tobacco adds that piquant aftertaste which honey can have, rather than accentuating its sweetness as it is done in OFB. It’s a dusty and rich oriental full of resiny goodness, knocking on the door of Gourmand. It’s a linear fragrance, but in that generous Italian way where linear is good, because it keeps you smelling ‘ideal’.

Whereas both OFB and BI have that recognizable oriental feel, Swedish brand Agonist’s The Infidels is the contemporary cool version… 853680fd986adac8b7457d8826ea5394Even if the notes make you think you are in for a similarly classic oriental, in fact this one has ‘new niche’ written all over it. It starts off, almost mandatory with pink pepper and lemon, then slowly myrrh and patchouli mixes in and makes for a smoky vibe, but in a grey mist incense stick kind of way, rather than the tobacco of the other two perfumes. The delicate sweetness of the ambery dry down stays chill, and feels grey rather than amber coloured. And like ashes rather than embers, the sillage is minimal like the style of the perfume. There’s something bone-dry almost drained about The infidels, like those Scandinavian homes kept all black, white and perfect . For me this is a scandi-cool fragrance; urban hipster male with his e-cigarette.

Notes for The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet; heliotrope, tobacco, ginger, pepper, benzoin and labdanum.

Notes for Bouquet Ideale; Top notes are nutmeg and cinnamon; middle notes are sandalwood, guaiac wood, virginia cedar and papyrus; base notes are musk, french labdanum, vanille, coumarin and tobacco blossom.

Notes for The Infidels; Pink Pepper Corn, Sicilian Lemon, Cloves, Indian Davana and Elemi, May Rose, Turkish Rose, Sambac Jasmine, Egyptian Jasmine, Burmese Magnolia, Iris, Comoros Ylang Ylang, Somali Myrrh, Opoponax, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Cistus, Peruvian Balm, Lebanese Cedarwood, Virginia Cedarwood, Indian Amber, Bourbon Vanilla

Feat pic is mine, three interior photos are from unknow (pinterest) sources. Samples as well as fragrances either from dear friends or bought.

An Air of Temperate Linden – Annette Neuffer Duftmanufaktur, Sonnet 18

I’ve been eyeing the homepage of German jazz trumpeter and perfumer Annette Neuffer’s range of natural perfumes for a while. For the obvious musical link, which is always fun to discover, but also from the onset two perfumes especially caught my interest. One is a coffee themed fragrance and another a carnation[i], but since I’ve already been talking an awful lot about those two subjects, and since now that the days are getting longer and slowly the temperatures become more friendly, my fragrance choice seem to mirror that with longing for flowers in bloom. And so, from Annette’s beautiful range, today is going to be about her rendition of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII, a soft-spoken linden garland.

Sonnet 18 starting with the iambic pentameter ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’, is perhaps one of the most famous sonnets, capturing the reader by letting him feel as well his own mortality as the poets (the poet’s lovers?) immortality through poetry. I can’t help but loving the fact that this poem is the inspiration for a perfume, something which (even if it can last long) would probably not be able to live 400 years, it would not be able to be used and shared again and again like this sonnet. It is in its nature as fleeting as the memory which Shakespeare himself wishes to hold on to, to immortalize.sonnet 006

So what is Sonnet 18 the fragrance; even if linden is normally found in full bloom at midsummer, this perfume is indeed ‘more lovely and more temperate’. It starts out with bergamot and leaves, which makes the green –citric opening zingy before it slowly melts into the linden blossom heart. The linden is supported by an array of other fine blossoms, rose, jasmine, orange blossom and mimosa. There is no doubt that the linden is the leading lady, but likewise this isn’t a soliflore linden, and it isn’t like standing under a huge honeyed linden tree in golden intoxicating bloom.

It’s a sombre and pensive fragrance, like with each added note and layer it looks back over the shoulder into the past, rueing it a little. The heart is elegant and courteous, and at times I feel the sensuality of a few dirty indoles. There is floral sweetness fitting of the linden blossom, but a discreet unsticky one and it stays close to the skin as it blends into the honey and tonka bean of the base notes. As the flowers fade to a whisper, the dry down morphs into a wrap of mysterious warmth.sonnet 003a

‘Sonnet 18’ is a beautiful floral for those who like their florals on the pensive side. I have no issue at all with longevity. As long as my skin stays warm the fragrance can last most of a day, albeit close to the skin. There is however something titillating in sniffing the perfume close-up, like being reminded of a secret or perhaps even with each sniff, taking in a word of the English master’s undying poetry.

And what better way to end?

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

 

 

[i] Even if those two are spectacularly good, if one likes a good warm black coffee and a dense, almost vintage carnation. I am sure I’ll get back to them another time, as they deserve that.

Notes; Top; Red Bitter Orange, Bergamot, Mandarin Leaves. Heart; Linden Blossom co2 extract, Rosa Alba, Sambac Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Genêt, Mimosa. Base; Honey Absolute, Bourbon Vetiver, Indian Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Vanilla Absolute, Styrax, Tonka Bean, Ambrette Musk

Disclaimer; The pictures are mine and I bought the samples from Annette Neuffer

 

Fresh, Fresher, Vintage – Guerlain Heliotrope Blanc 000 (1881)

Today I am finally ready to move on to the Guerlain vintage Heliotrope Blanc.

Upon receiving this perfume, once again I had no idea what to expect, and unlike the sample of Œillet which I knew would at least not have turned, here I had no idea, but consoled myself that even if the juice was ruined, probably the bottle alone was at least worth the amount I paid.7be936fcbf7a04f65fbf10d90d09e713

Despite its vintage, Heliotrope Blanc arrived and smelled fresh as the proverbial daisy[1]. In fact you could probably pour it into an Aqua Allegoria bottle and no one would know it was a fragrance over 60 years old (at least) and first released in 1881[2]. I am not sure how this is even possible, and how would it have smelled when new, if it’s this fresh now? In fact considering the age and that most synthetic molecules were not yet discovered by the time of its creation, it has been mighty difficult to come up with a proper description. And more than once did I wish I had Thierry Wasser on speed dial.

Spraying Heliotrope Blanc something instantly tickles my nose like little yellow sparkles, but mellower than a pure lemony feel, it feels like sniffing bubbles from a champagne coupe. I smell a soft bergamot and there’s that thing between hesperidic and medicinal, and somehow so much space between the notes, the top virtually springs off the skin and does all its sparkle on top on what can already be detected underneath as a slight powdery and a bit sweet undergrowth. There’s no sign of heavy woods or mosses and no sticky deepness as one might expect from such an old perfume, just pure fresh sun-kissed spring. There’s a sense of distant flowers, and perhaps some petit grain to keep the zesty feel. The powder here is dry like talc, and it rises up in puffs through the sparkle. Sometimes I detect an elusive whiff of lilac, which ties in nicely with making this a white heliotrope as opposed to a blue/ purple one[3]. Is it a bit of vetiver which adds to the green and fresh feel of this fragrance, and again balances sweet and fresh, dry and dewy moist in the most charmingly innocent way?

So much space and sparkle, how is that possible? The first association aldehydes of some sort. But here’s a problem; although aldehydes for medicinal purposes were discovered in 1859, for perfume they were not used until early 1900. Of course my bottle being from after 1900* could have had alterations done to the formula, but perhaps it’s the special no longer used softer bergamot and linalool with its floral, sweet and petit-grain scent in play (as it was possible to obtain naturally at this time). The fact that I’m reminded of good old-fashioned soap enhances this assumption, as linalool has been used in soap products in forever. Anyone who is familiar with heliotrope fragrances will know the typical odor profile; powder, fluffy, sweet, almondy, cherry pie. And yet, here it’s so much more discreet, almost as if the perfumer, Aimé Guerlain, was scared to overuse this new compound, or perhaps the expression he wished was another.DSC03148 It’s innocent and airy and the citruses have been used to even out the sweetness of the heliotrope to make this more about the sun than about the flower.

Deceptively fresh and happy is Heliotrope Blanc, I happily wear it perhaps more frequent than any of my other vintages. I wouldn’t call this an unforgettable gem and a crime to have been left out of production, but it’s a window to another time in a way that I haven’t encountered with other vintages. I think most people associate vintage fragrances to be of that heavy mossy nature or perhaps with light colognes, simplistic and their citrus notes off long before your grandmother was born. Heliotrope Blanc 000 shows another side of the story: all the freshness of a perfect cologne yet powdery and easy on the nose with a real bouquet and longevity. And not least; not as much a melancholic sigh from time long past, as a happy spring greeting.

 

Ending on another old spring greeting;

Welcome Rain on a Springnight by Tu Fu (712-768)

The good rain knows its season,
When spring arrives, it brings life.
It follows the wind secretly into the night,
And moistens all things softly, without sound.
On the country road, the clouds are all black,
On a riverboat, a single fire bright.
At dawn one sees this place now red and wet,
The flowers are heavy in the brocade city.

 

[1] I was lucky to have a fragrant friend who owns an even older bottle of HB000 and she could verify that it was indeed the real thing.

[2] My bottle is guestimated from the 1930s/40s. Heliotropin was a molecule which had only just been discovered, and sparked a sudden fashion for perfume houses to launch heliotrope fragrances.

[3] Thanks to A perfume blog’s Blacknall for clarifying this

* The cat seemed to think there was no animalic musk present.

** I couldn’t find credits for the old print. The photos are mine.